Trevor Watts


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Saxophonist Trevor Watts has made no bones about his love for the South African expatriate musicians, especially Dudu Pukwana, who came to London during apartheid. In recent years, Watts has been playing the kwelas, high life and ritual dance music so much a part of the jazz styles of those players, especially the members of the Brotherhood of Breath, who mingled with many British improvisers. Hand percussionist Jamie Harris joins Watts for this recording of original jam tunes that reflects the traditional African and modern English way for making new music. While their range in timbre, pacing, and interplay is limited, the expression of joy they exude is rarely trivial. The difference is mainly measured in degrees of pace and energy as a slightly overblown soprano saxophone in the 6/8 ritualistic dance of "Alpino" and 4/4 of "Sarawak" with Watts on alto sets the tone. At their most creative, a stretched 10/8 time signature in extreme upper octave levels on "Three & More" and the circular sped up line of "Kerrytown" shows these two undoubtedly belong to the modern musicians sect. Vocals add to a swirling, frantic effect during "Tandem Voices," while a more whirling dervish, Turkish or Arabian flavor has the woodwinds sounding overdubbed, but it's actually a vocal accent on "Balintan." Often you feel Harris is an accessory, or a second brought simply for support, as there is not much interplay or counterpoint involved. Then again, one might contend it's all call and response as in most African music. Watts so thoroughly dominates this project, and though there's a certain joy, exuberance, or in the case of "Anna B," romanticism, he's expressing his inner calling, with Harris along for the safari. While not a definitive recording, and assuredly for specialized tastes, what Watts and Harris have achieved is undeniably unique unto itself.

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