Bobby Watson: Appointment In Milano

One of Blakey's last altoists showed his musicality and good taste in company with a sympathetic Italian trio in Italy in 1985

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In the booklet note for this one much is made of the fact that Watson, who got an early career break in one of the latter-day line-ups of Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers, was back in 1985 open to influences outside of hard bop.

Those influences look, as it were, both in front of and behind that touchstone, and the unaccompanied solo that is If Bird Could See Me Now, an uncommonly apt title given that even in the 1980s Charlie Parker was still a benchmark among alto sax players of the nominally modern persuasion, is proof of the backwards glance, not that Watson’s debt to Parker was overt even then.

The fact that he works with an Italian piano, bass and drums trio for the rest of this album places him in high recorded company – both Lee Konitz and Phil Woods did the same. Everything is musical evidence of a quartet that had gelled to the point where spontaneity was possible and no trace of sterility had set in. That’s exemplified by Watson’s Blues, in which the venerable form is mined for new substance and the decrease in intensity and dynamics between the end of Watson’s solo and the beginning of composer Bassini’s sounds entirely uncontrived.

(I’m) Always Missing You hints initially at surging qualities to come before it settles to become something of a reflective ballad entirely in keeping with its title. Watson seems to know instinctively that the emotional depth of a slower tempo can be dissipated by empty verbosity. Here he keeps it simple, and in so doing displays a depth of musical knowledge, as opposed to musicianship as such, the like of which seems a lot less common these days.

Discography
Appointment In Milano; Ballando (Dancing); If Bird Could See Me Now; Watson’s Blues; (I’m) Always Missing You; Funcalypso (43.26)
Watson (as); Piero Bassini (p); Attilio Zanchi (b); Giampiero Prina (d). Barigozzi Studio, Milan, Italy, 6 February 1985.
Red Records RR1231842