Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Ernie Watts' Wheel of Time

"Wheel of Time" is veteran saxophonist Ernie Watt's latest release on Watts' Flying Dolphin Records label. On this he is backed by his European Quartet consisting of pianist Christof Saenger, bassist Rudi Engel and drummer Heinrich Koebberling. This band has been together for 15 years and each members has contributed to the originals here along with four new ones from Watts. The title track is a dedication to the late Charlie Haden with whom Watts played in Haden's Quartet West for 30 years. Also included is an interpretation of Joe Henderson's "Inner Urge."

The Quartet is a terrific band su[p[orting the veteran saxophonist whose career spans from the sixties until today. Watts continues to display a vibrant, expressive sound and dynamic attack although I find his vibrato on the opening "Letter From Home," somewhat harsh which detracts from my enjoyment of the track despite his invention and the energy his playing displays. More satisfying is his energetic rendition of "Inner Urge," while "Andi's Blues" is a nifty blue performance with bassist Engel and pianist Saenger both taking solid solos. Watts' own high energy blues playing is followed by Koebberling nimbly using his brushes.

"L'Agua Azul" is a terrific Brazilian jazz performance on which Watts displays a softer side while the aptly titled "Velocity" is a torrid workout that is influenced by "Giant Steps." It further showcases the leader's virtuosity. The title track opens with Engel's bass, then becoming a lovely duet with Watts before the full quartet enters. Saenger and Koebberling exercise restraint in their accompaniment and  Saenger'ss solo is a marvelous example of taste and restraint, before Engel eloquently takes out this moving performance.

Ernie Watts continues to be a formidable saxophonist who brings considerable passion and invention to his music. His European Quartet does a superb job in accompanying him and making their own statements on a fine recording.

I received my review copy from a publicist. Here us a performance by The Ernie Watts Quartet.


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