Monday, September 20, 2010
Review: Bobby Watson- The Gates BBQ Suite
Original Classic. That's the name of the sauce most people reach for while dining at a Gates Bar-B-Q restaurant. It also serves as an apt description of Bobby Watson. The Plastic Sax Person of the Decade has done more than anyone to insure that Kansas City's jazz legacy remains vibrant in the new millennium.
In spite of my profound respect for Watson, I approached the new release The Gates BBQ Suite with trepidation. The concept of a traditional big band album in 2010 didn't appeal to me. I needn't have worried.
All of Watson's compositional gifts, directorial skills and prodigious improvisational talent are brought to bear on the project. While the context is a throwback to The New Testament version of the Count Basie Orchestra and Benny Carter's Further Definitions, it's hardly quaint or old-fashioned. Even if the charts don't betray the influence, the joyous, groove-based sensibility of the album hints that the compositions were designed by a man familiar with the music of Donald Byrd and Ramsey Lewis. The Gates BBQ Suite is as immediately engaging as a good pop album.
Watson's solos are, needless to say, excellent, but he never goes for the jugular. The album is about feel rather than chops. It's also gratifying to hear several members of Diverse on the album. Diverse's rhythm section of Ben Leifer and Ryan Lee shine throughout and trumpeter Herman Mehari solos on the first track.
"Sweet and Mild" is one of two less popular sauces offered at Gates. After a weekend spent enjoying The Gates BBQ Suite, that's precisely how I've come to think of the new album by Kansas City's "Original Classic."
(Original image by Plastic Sax.)