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Sadao Watanabe: Remembrance

For his 60th album in a remarkable career, saxophonist Sadao Watanabe offers a warm visitation to his straight-ahead roots with Remembrance (Verve 314 547 440-2; 56:59). Nearly four decades after his recording debut, Watanabe continues to offer flawless execution on classic bebop jams and romantic melodies alike, offering a one-hour clinic for fans and new initiates alike. The alto sax specialist solicits the support of a great young combo, and features them well. Pianist Cyrus Chestnut is an anchor, setting up a beautiful waltzing piano palette for Watanabe’s romancing on “Remembrance,” and boogies furiously on “Where You At.” Brass counterparts Nicolas Payton (fluegelhorn) and Robin Eubanks (trombone) also add punch, with the former offering a stretch-out, showcase solo on the club groover “Smokin’ Area,” and the latter wailing in perfect synchronicity with Watanabe through the bebop snap and tap of “Where You At.” Watanabe and his group cruise through difficult timing curves on the bass walking “Times Up,” and funky, brassy strut-out to rolling walk “See What Happens.” Other highlights include the brass conversation, “Forest Song,” which incorporates classical and world beat textures (grounded by Billy Drummond’s big, rolling drum musings), and the driving roadscape “Aquarian Groove,” which bustles with light pop and country influences.

Originally Published