Sunday, May 14, 2017

Album Review: Bobby Watson- Made in America

The release of a new Bobby Watson album should trigger a civic holiday in Kansas City.  Yet aside from the spring in the steps of the jazz master’s most fervent admirers, April 21 was like any other day in Watson’s hometown.  The three weeks-old  Made in America documents the jubilant swing that (the rapper Tech N9ne’s output aside) is the sound of the town.

Watson’s influence on Kansas City’s music scene is immense.  The acclaim he received following his induction into Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers in 1977 signaled a restoration of Kansas City’s ability to produce top-tier talent.  His more recent work as the director of jazz studies at UMKC has further invigorated the region’s cultural landscape.  Watson is directly responsible for the presence of young luminaries including Hermon Mehari and Eddie Moore.

Made in America, Watson’s first conventional small-group album since 2009’s Everlasting, documents the sort of sprightly melodies, genial interplay and robust sax work that he’s showcased at many of his area performances the past few years.

Each piece is inspired by an iconic black American.  The power of the compositions is correspondingly vital.  Watson, bassist Curtis Lundy and drummer Lewis Nash swing with panache.  The work of pianist Stephen Scott provides the project’s most rewarding surprises.  Off the radar for years, Scott adds a lustrous sheen to the wondrously vital Made in America.

(Original album by Plastic Sax.)

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