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Dave Brubeck Quartet and Bill Smith at the Earshot Jazz Festival

Gerard Presencer at the Appleby Jazz Festival, Appleby, England 1998

Do you know who Charlie Watts’ favorite swing-era, big-band drummer is? It’s Dave Tough, not a flashy soloist but a man who made a large ensemble glow by dint of an inner flame that he attended with fidelity and a minimum of fuss. During a gig at the Blue Note, Watts displayed a prime example of his ability to do just this on “Licks,” bassist Dave Green’s take on “I Got Rhythm.” Watts lived up to the latter title as he underpinned the band with a pair of brushes.

It was about 10 years ago that Watts brought a quintet to these shores playing the music of Charlie Parker. With Watts in the rhythm section, besides Green, was pianist Brian Lemon. The front line consisted of Peter King, alto saxophone, and Gerard Presencer, trumpet. In the week of November 6-11 Watts returned to New York, this time with a tentet that included all the members of that quintet plus Julian Argüelles, tenor and soprano saxes; Alan Barnes, baritone sax and clarinet; Henry Lowther, trumpet and flugelhorn; Mark Nightingale, trombone; Anthony Kerr, vibraphone; and Luis Jardim, percussion.

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