Bobby Watson | Back Home in Kansas City Review
Bobby Watson is releasing his latest jazz album, Back Home in Kansas City. The album pays homage to Watson’s hometown as he leads his working rhythm section on the alto saxophone. But, Watson says, “The alto is a singing horn. Great melodies are immortal, like a sculpture or a painting,” Watson insists. “This album is more about the singing quality of my instrument.” The album features a quintet of bassist Curtis Lundy, drummer Victor Jones, pianist Cyrus Chestnut, and trumpeter Jeremy Pelt.
Watson opens the album with a contrafact on the classic “Donna Lee” called “Back Home in Kansas City.” Hearing Watson effortlessly forming melodies laying out this well-known chord progression is a real pleasure. His note choices and approaches to chord tones come from the bebop lineage, making for a thrilling solo of technique meets melody.
Watson shows his command of post-bop with his version of Coltrane’s “Dear Lord.” Watson’s shimmering alto saxophone tone brings out the melody’s rich harmonic/melodic richness. His embellishment of the theme is a cross between Trane, bebop, and today’s jazz language. During Watson’s solo, he keeps the mood and shape of the melody. Chestnut also performs a lovely solo. “Slide Steps” is a selection that is a contrafact of Coltrane’s “Giant Steps.”
Back Home in Kansas City is a vibrant display of Watson’s passion for playing and command of a wide array of jazz styles and eras. Watson explains, “Johnny Griffin told me that when you solo, you want to introduce yourself, talk about how your day went, tell how you feel right now and where you want to take the listener – all through music,” he details. “I know that I have enough technique to last me the rest of my life. But what do I want to say with it? We’re all trying to play one grand solo our whole life in different contexts.” Watson does that on Back Home in Kansas City; he tells stories through his horn.
Back Home in Kansas City
October 7, 2022