Way back in 1972, tenor saxophone player, Ernie Watts joined the horn section of John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers, teaming with fellow sax players Clifford Soloman and Charlie Owens, and trumpeter Blue Mitchell, The resulting album was Mayall’s 1973 release Movin’ On. This was during Mayall’s jazz-blues fusion years and the two albums produced in those years are both favorites!
I haven’t thought much about Ernie Watts in the last 4o some odd years, until the other day when I saw that the Ernie Watts Quartet has a new album A Simple Truth moving up the JazzWeek Charts. From an Ernie Watts press release….
A Simple Truth (2014). This concept album is joyful and uplifting, full of energy and life. It starts with “Morning” and ends at “Evening,” lush orchestral pieces with saxophone which bookend the recording, with Quartet tunes between the two. Highlights include the exquisite “No Lonely Nights” by Keith Jarrett, the highest-energy-ever “Bebop” by Dizzy Gillespie and the warm, singing ballad “A Simple Truth” by Watts.
According to his biography at AllMusic because he played on so many commercial recordings from the mid 70s to the early 80s many people labeled him a pop’R&B tenor man! But it seems that Watts has been much more than that and in his work over the last 24 plus years he has shown himself to be an intense and masterful jazz improviser who has developed his own distinctive and soulful sound, Ian Patterson at All About Jazz has written that, “He is one of the greatest living tenor saxophonists, at the top of his game.” And when you are at the top of your game, you win awards like this……
In March of 2014, Watts received the prestigious Frankfurt Music Prize at the Frankfurt MusikMesse. Founded in 1980, the Frankfurt Music Prize is presented annually for special achievements in music performance, composition, musicology, teaching, or service to music. It is presented to both classical and non-classical musicians. Of the 32 current winners, only 6 have been jazz musicians. Per the Frankfurt Music Prize Foundation, Watts was “selected for his strikingly melodic saxophone style and his original tone language, with which he has already enriched several generations of musicians.” Previous jazz honorees include Chick Corea, Paquito D’Rivera, and John McLaughlin.
Not bad company to keep, eh??
After recording fifteen albums on various labels, Watts and his wife Patricia formed Watts’ own label Flying Dolphin Records in 2004 and A Simple Truth is the seventh album Watts has released on the label. Watts says this about forming his own label….
“Through my years of studio work, touring, and recording,” he says, “I’ve played in every kind of musical setting. I’ve reached a place in my life where I need to make music on my terms. Starting my own label provided me with a new sense of freedom.”
Tonight I listened to A Simple Truth and it is a really fine album and it does appear that Watts is at the top of his game. So check him out and as for me…. once again I have a lot of back catalog to check out!!!
Here’s the Ernie Watts Quartet Live!!