Eric Watson

Smetana: Les Deux Quatuors/Huit Polkas

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Pianist Watson is joined by bassist John Lindberg and the great soprano sax master Steve Lacy for these sessions recorded "live" at La Maison De La Culture D'Amiens, though no crowd noise or applause is heard. The three mesh well together; Lacy in particular is sounding inspired and very tonal, while Lindberg tends to dart around the two. Watson's piano sound is quite lyrical, focused, centered and fresh, with allegiance to no particular influence -- a good thing. He also wrote four of these six seemingly spontaneous compositions. The two non-Watson-written tracks are Lacy's "Holding" and Lindberg's "The Terrace." The former is simply a lilting blues dirge, a familiar theme amongst his many compositions; it's sometimes a bit clandestine, yet hopeful and informative, with Lacy's signature soprano sound ever-present. The latter is a multi-dimensional piece of writing, with haunting, snaky arco bass from Lindberg leading to soprano and piano hovering over, then merging to a clipped unison line that gets faster and faster and faster. There's also a bop-flavored improv, with Lacy more animated than ever, then a serene bass solo, and out -- involved music-making for sure. Of the Watson-penned pieces, "Daughter of Darkness" lives up to its title, a dour ballad with no bass, perfect for Lacy's melancholy, completely understated approach. Watson is so in tune with his cohort on this one. A dark bop feel on "Newcanaan Con Man" leads to dancing figures in the melody line. The bridge is introspective, then suddenly dramatic, while a swinging bridge for a Lacy solo and Watson's bop lines brings the con "artist" to resolution, and justice. Arpeggiated and fluttery runs on "Juggernaut" perfectly bring this musical monster to life. There are some atypically frantic, ruminating, lithe yet muscular, scurrying lines drawn by the pianist as he comes out of his shell with help from Lindberg; the forward motion is staggeringly awesome. Lacy lays out for "Substance Abuse," starting ominous then utilizing repeated triplet figures in near jig style, buliding tension and drama exponentially. These three work together in Europe; it's easy to hear and understand that they have a shared empathy and common goal to make brilliant music. On this disc they succeed in spades. Highly recommended.

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