Keepin' It Real

“Keepin’ It Real”

(Smoke Sessions Records)

Alto saxophonist Bobby Watson has long kept his eye on the horizon, looking to see what was coming next rather than worrying too much about what was behind him. In the past couple of years, he stepped away from a 20-year post as the head of jazz studies at the University of Missouri/Kansas City and dissolved his Horizon band. Then he began recruiting the players for what would become New Horizon, the group that backs him on his most recent release, Keepin’ It Real (Smoke Sessions). Naturally, Watson relied on the input of bassist Curtis Lundy, his longtime friend and colleague, who introduced him to pianist Victor Gould and trumpeter Giveton Gelin, both hot young players on the New York City scene. Watson met trumpeter Josh Evans at Dizzy’s Club and was so impressed with his playing that he invited him to alternate tracks with Gelin on the album. This all results in a fresh take on the heady, swinging post bop for which Watson is renowned, as the quintet, rounded out by Lundy and veteran drummer Victor Jones, digs in on a set of new and classic compositions. Watson called on his church roots for the title track, our selection, which bears an overt gospel feel from the rhythm on up. Gould’s piano and the joyful horn choruses communicate the uplift of a religious service, with the powerful testimony of deacons Watson and Gelin rocking the pulpit. And the song’s outro is a real treat, as Lundy’s bass kicks off a sanctified soul-jam that chases the devil from the door.

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