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Reviewers: Tony Augarde [Editor], Steve Arloff, Nick Barnard, Pierre Giroux, Don Mather, James Poore, Glyn Pursglove, George Stacy, Bert Thompson, Sam Webster, Jonathan Woolf

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Wheel of Time

FD 1011



Letter from Home

A Distant Light

Inner Urge

Andi’s Blues

L’Agua Azul

You and You


Goose Dance

Wheel of Time (Anthem for Charlie).

Ernie Watts (tenor saxophone); Christof Saenger (piano); Rudi Engel (bass); Heinrich Koebberling (drums)

Recorded January-February 2016, Sound & More Studio, Darmstadt, Germany [59:14]

Ernie Watts’ European Quartet has matured over 15 years and is now a tight ensemble, with a strong corporate identity. Each of the players contributes original compositions for this hour-long date, which is excellently recorded, and charts a period in which Watts moved into his 70s. Milestone or not, it seems not at all to have diminished his tenor playing.

There are four Watts tunes spread amongst the nine tracks, Letter from Home displaying an easy rhythmic swing, and generating crisply accomplished soloing and styling throughout. His lyrical side comes to the fore on A Distant Light, where timbral interplay and fluency are heard at something like their finest, the kind of thing that comes from a decade and a half’s worth of close collaboration. Pianist Chrsitof Saenger takes an excellent solo on Joe Henderson’s Inner Urge and exudes a tightly swinging musical persona on bassist Rudi Engel’s Andi’s Blues where the leader’s sinewy statements are deftly supported by drum and bass interplay.

Relaxed Latino vibes infiltrate L’Agua Azul, another composition by the pianist, Watts’ tone here airier than usual but still focused with control of varying tempos. You and You is an up-tempo ballad-like song with nice shifting patterns. It generates a genuine ebullience as it develops – the song is the drummer’s – via a sax solo full of verve and lift. By contrast Velocoity, as its name suggests, is an up-tempo affair, Watts indulge a few squawks here and there, somewhat Rollinsesque at times, in his extended solo over the propulsive drum backing – piano and bass sitting out a good while. Genial effervescence meanwhile is the order of the day in Goose Dance – and this is the essence of the band’s success: lively tunes, communicative performances, toe-tapping felicity grounded on excellent technical assurance. The title track is the closer, a threnodic piece dedicated to Charlie Haden, and seven minutes of thoughtful lament.

Ernie Watts’ many admirers will welcome this melodically robust and well-structured album.

Jonathan Woolf

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