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Bobby Watson and Horizon: Horizon Reassembled

Bobby Watson and the members of Horizon made their previous album, Midwest Shuffle (Columbia), 10 years ago. But from the evidence of Horizon Reassembled, you might think that they had never stopped playing together.

Alto saxophonist Watson, trumpeter Terell Stafford, pianist Edward Simon, bassist Essiet Essiet and drummer Victor Lewis perform with their old precision and warmth on this set of nine originals, plus a modern jazz classic and one standard. At his best here, Watson percolates melodic improvisation, rarely lapsing into the bop exercises laden with even eighth-notes that sometimes make his playing boring. Lyricism, a dominant aspect of his current work, is especially notable on Pam Watson’s “The Love We Had Yesterday,” Bacharach’s “The Look of Love” and “Dark Days,” an evocation of Watson’s hero, Johnny Hodges. Stafford matches Watson’s poetic quality not only in the purity of his flugelhorn work on the ballads but also in the cogent melodies he creates on trumpet, even on spirited pieces like Lewis’ “Eeeyyess” and Essiet’s “Xangongo,” which has the urgency of an Afro-Cuban train song-if there is such a thing.

Pianist Simon’s Latin leanings and impressive soloing are vital to the success of this collection. His “Pere” features his superb playing and has a drum solo with piano-vamp accompaniment that is one of the CD’s highlights. Watson’s “Lemoncello,” as piquant as its Italian liqueur namesake, is one of those almost childlike melodies, in the class of Sonny Rollins’ “St. Thomas” or Miles Davis’ “Jean Pierre,” that insinuates itself into the listener’s brain. It provides a fine framework for improvisation.

Originally Published