Bill Watrous

Live at the Blue Note

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Another in the series of live performances from New York's Blue Note released by Halfnote, this time it's trombonist Bill Watrous and his quartet with Derek Smith, Russell George, and Joe Ascione. Watrous applies his effortless virtuosity and fluid expressive solo style to a program of classic pop and jazz standards, dealing with them in depth and from a variety of rhythmic perspectives. The average running time per track is almost ten minutes, allowing for extensive examination of improvisational opportunities offered by each tune. Watrous gets a warm, rich, buttery sound from the slide instrument. When he needs it, he also has enormous technique producing those fast-tongued notes that contrast with and set off his long flowing lines. He brings both into play on such cuts as "Always," flirting with a bit of tailgating along the way. Watrous has the merited reputation of being one of jazz's more prominent bop-oriented trombonists, as he reminds listeners on Thelonious Monk's "Blue Monk." There's a long, strong piano solo here by Smith and marvelous interplay between Ascione's drums and George's bass in support of creative, freewheeling modern trombone playing by Watrous, which draws an appreciative response from the audience. "I Want to Be Happy" opens with Watrous a cappella, having some fun with a variety of curious sounds coming out of the instrument before leaping into a fast-paced rendition of the melody line with the other members jumping in. This tune is the album's swinger, as everyone moves along helter-skelter, supported by clashing Ascione cymbals, punctuated drum breaks, and staunch basslines by George, producing a rousing coda to an outstanding live performance. Recommended.

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