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An hour of great music

Horizon Reassembled
Horizon Reassembled
By Bobby Watson & Horizon

Palmetto Records: 2004

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This review first appeared in the Summer 2004 issue of Turbula.

Someone needs to tell Bobby Watson that he's not a young lion anymore, doesn't need to keep pushing so damn hard. Doesn't need to keep blowing so damn hard, either.

Of course, that would be our loss, for Watson remains one of the most exuberant saxophonists in jazz thirty years after he first hit the scene. The new album from the former Art Blakey sideman and arranger shows Watson still pushing, still growing – and still improving as an instrumentalist.

On "Horizon Reassembled," Watson and trumpeter/flugelhornist Terell Stafford recall the heyday of hard bop while also playing as melodically as any smooth jazz operator. The Watson original "Lemoncello" is one of those instantly accessible little bop songs built around a hook strong enough to anchor the navy – like Sonny Rollins' "St. Thomas" or Nat Adderley's "Work Song." But on a cover of the Bacharach-David chestnut "The Look of Love," Watson and Stafford create a sound so deep-pile lush it will make the most modern digital sound system sound like a gorgeous, hand-buffed wood cabinet hi fi.

The rhythm section of Edward Simon (piano), Essiet Essiet (bass) and Victor Lewis not only provides a firm but flexible background, but one new song each. Simon's "Pere" possesses that same immediacy that "Lemoncello" has, and the arrangement's opening with Watson and Stafford blowing in harmony is a real attention-getter. Lewis' "Eeeyyess" is a nice straight-ahead affair with a touch of funk and soul tossed in, while Essiet's "Xangongo" is a brassy piece with some tight ensemble improvisation.

Throughout this disc, Watson's sound remains as bright as it ever has. The band is every bit his equal, and the result is a fantastic hour of music.