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Ernie Watts: Press Quotes
October 21st 2010
Ernie Watts in Ronnie Scott's
In an ideal world the American tenor saxophonist Ernie Watts would be gracing the Soho bandstand in the company of Quartet West, the Carlie Haden supergroup that, over the past quarter of a century, has recorded such stylish re-creations of the era of Charlie Parker, Raymond Chandler and film noir. Sadly, the outfit has made relatively few appearances on these shores, but there was compensation to be had in the visit from Watts's European-based group.
The results were actually more dynamic than some of Quartet West's recent outings. Watts - a cultured, slightly stooped played who spent much of his early career in the studio system, working with Marvin Gaye, among many others - has made no secret of his admiration for John Coltrane. Unlike the Coltrane clones, though, he has kept his own personality intact, his timbre taking on a slightly tart quality often associated with the alto rather than the tenor. He can match the late Michael Brecker in terms of pure muscle, but there is a rare element of tenderness to his soloing.
He celebrates his 65th birthday this month, yet there was no sign of his holding back in To The Point, a tune that started off his opening set at a daunting pace. This was state-of-the-art neo-bop. The drummer Heinrich Koebberling hustled and harried, while the pianist Christof Saegner - who spent much of the set reading from charts - seemed entirely unfazed by Watt's abrupt changes of pace or his sudden surges into a falsetto-like tone. The bassist Rudi Engel was immaculate too.
The leader's new album, Four by Four - which features both his American and German line-ups - is sometimes too introverted and lyrical for its own good. The idea of splicing together both groups on one track sounds intriguing in theory although the reality proves slightly meandering. In the flesh, the Europeans proved much spikier. On the bebop classic Shaw Nuff, there was no mistaking the joyousness of the ensemble work, the musicians evoking the mischievous spirit of Dizzy Gillespie.
Watts switched to his handmade wooden flute for the introduction to the restful Spirit Song, his spare phrases taking on a Celtic tinge at times. The serene mood continued on an expansive reading of The Ballad of the San Young Men, one of the highlights of the new album. It has taken Watts a long time to reach a wider audience. We should make the most of him.
by Clive Davis
…“After hearing saxophonist Ernie Watts, it's
easy to imagine that he possesses superhuman talents similar to those
held by members of the fictional Fantastic Four. He breathes fire, can
cool with ice, whip up a storm, and shape his sax sound in ways otherworldly.
This is a powerful, yet sensitive, technically Herculean, yet human, complex
yet elegantly beautiful player--no, a marvel.“
.."What comes through is Watts' essential lyricism. There are some
players with Ernie Watts' total command of an instrument who focus more
on showing their technical prowess than on creating music. They equate
showers of notes with saying something. But Watts is always saying something
- as musicians put it - through that mastery of his horn. Never in the
least tentative, his authority comes through from note one. And he swings
like a tidal wave."
…“Ernie Watts has developed into one of the most powerful
of tenormen with complete control over his horn and the ability to bring
intensity and passion (plus taste) to any musical situation."
...”Watts plays in a virtuosic post-Coltrane style, with a fine,
distinctive tone and an expansive technique that permits him to generate
long, cleanly articulated lines that dance along confidently even at challenging
..."Whatever I play, whenever I play, whether it`s on stage or
in the studio, by myself or in front of 10,000 people, whenever I pick
up my instrument, the music is the priority. For me, the main thing is
just to be playing, because in that way, I will always have the opportunity
to keep that growth cycle going." The celebrated young lions of jazz
may have daunting power and speed, but few of them have what Tenor saxophonist
Watts has honed to perfection; phrasing as natural as falling water and
a sound that is at once steeped in tradition and wholly unique.”
..."Very few musicians have a resume quite as varied or as impressive
as saxophonist Ernie Watts. His musical curiosity and tremendous versatility
have led him to perform in contexts as diverse as a TV show band, with
orchestras, on small and big screen soundtracks, on over five hundred
recording sessions which include many of the greatest names in Motown,
in duo and in quartet settings as well as in a number of the most distinguished
big bands in modern jazz history.”
…“In an ideal world the American tenor saxophonist Ernie
Watts would be gracing the Soho bandstand in the company of Quartet West,
the Charlie Haden supergroup that, over the past quarter of a century,
has recorded such stylish re-creations of the era of Charlie Parker, Raymond
Chandler and film noir. Sadly, the outfit has made relatively few appearances
on these shores, but there was compensation to be had in the visit from
Watt's European based group. The results were actually more dynamic than
some of Quartet West's recent outings.”
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