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Bobby Watson & Victor Lewis: On the Horizon

Horizon: Essiet, Watson, Lewis, Simon and Stafford

They were known as “the happy band.” Throughout the late ’80s and early ’90s Bobby Watson and Victor Lewis’ Horizon concocted a soul-stirring brand of hard bop where joy radiated off the bandstand. While it took a while for the band to gel-bassists Curtis Lundy and Carroll Dashiell, trumpeters Melton Mustafa and Roy Hargrove and pianists John Hicks and Benny Green are only some of Horizon’s alumni-once Watson and Lewis found trumpeter Terell Stafford, bassist Essiet Essiet and pianist Ed Simon, they brewed an intoxicating chemistry. Everyone on the bandstand unleashed ferocious solos, yet they also were shamelessly lighthearted, often engaging the audience in humorous banter. “We never walked on the bandstand like intellectual snobs,” Lewis says. “We joked around and had fun. I think that pulled the audience in.”

Eleven years ago, at the height of Horizon’s popularity, Columbia released Midwest Shuffle, which captured one of the group’s exhilarating live performances. Then, Horizon was gone. According to Watson, they decided to disband because each member was becoming a bandleader on his own. The group reconvened for a small tour in 2000, but now, with the release of Horizon Reassembled (Palmetto), Horizon is back in full swing.

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