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KIOS Jazz CD of the Month: Bobby Watson/Made in America/Smoke Sessions Records

May 1, 2017

Veteran saxophonist Bobby Watson returns with a new release that celebrates known and lesser known African-American innovators who have made an impact in our country.

Made In America is an eleven track program, presenting mostly originals from the Kansas City-based jazz artist who is joined by the Curtis Lundy Trio. Lundy, on the bass, is with Stephen Scott at the piano, and Lewis Nash on the drums.

Alto saxophonist Bobby Watson is known for his rich lyrical tone and ability to go from emotionally soaked ballads to roof-raising anthems. And this new recording features that & more from the veteran saxophonist and his band mates. The disc opens with a tribute to  Wendell O. Pruitt, a pioneering military pilot and daring Tuskegee Airman with 'The Aviator", which is a stirring performance.

This reviewer's favorite song on the recording is "The Real Lone Ranger" which is for Bass Reeves, the first black deputy U.S. marshal west of the Mississippi River whose exceptional career as a law enforcement officer is claimed to be the inspiration for fictional "Lone Ranger". Whether or not this is true, the bold exploits of Reeves seem to directly inspire Watson and company. Watson delivers a passionate, fiery performance, with the Curtis Lundy trio creating sustained explosive rhythm, resulting in an intense musical tribute.   

The recording also pays tribute to music luminaries Grant Green on "The Guitarist" and Sammy Davis, Jr. on "The G.O.A.T". And Bobby Watson closes the album with "I Gotta Be Me", a tune from the Davis, Jr. book that is performed exceptionally and faithfully. And does it swing!

Bobby Watson grew up in Kansas City, Kansas. He trained formally at the University of Miami's distinguished jazz program and completed his program of studies on the bandstand as musical director of Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers. Watson described the band as a "finishing school" for musicians and said that the band turned out more accomplished jazz musicians than even the various Miles Davis bands.

As a rising star in his own right in the 1980s, Bobby Watson worked with a "who's who" of top musical talent--drummers Max Roach and Louis Hayes, fellow saxophonists George Coleman and Branford Marsalis, celebrated multi-instrumentalist Sam Rivers, trumpeter Wynton Marsalis, and vocalists Joe Williams, Dianne Reeves, Lou Rawls, Betty Carter, and Carmen Lundy. As a result, Watson has appeared as a sideman or a guest musician on countless recordings over the years. His appearance on the Old Friends, New Point recording of 2001 yielded a phenomenal reading of "Wichita Lineman" that is a prime example of Watson's creativity as an accomplished saxophonist.

Watson was a co-founder of the first edition of Horizon, an acoustic quintet considered one of the preeminent small groups of the mid-1980s to mid-1990s. He also wrote original music for Robert DeNiro's directorial debut, A Bronx Tale. Watson has dozens of recordings to his name, and his 1986 release Love Remains is a "must have" for any jazz aficionado.

Currently based out of Kansas City, Watson is an accomplished educator at the University of Missouri/Kansas City Conservatory of Music and is a much sought-after authority on jazz music. Bobby Watson has been a guest on Jazz in the Afternoon on KIOS-FM and has performed twice at Jazz on the Green to appreciative audiences.

For more information, you may visit Bobby Watson's website.