Southern Exposure

Ken Watters

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Southern Exposure Review

by Dave Nathan

This Ken Watters album for Summit is with his regular working quartet, and provides a play list of standards, jazz tunes (including a couple of originals), and rock stuff adapted for a small jazz group. The result is a mixed bag in terms of the effect upon the ear. A quiet, introspective "Fire & Rain" makes this song sound better than it should, with engaging conversational back-and-forth between Watters and David Marlow's piano and Jay Frederick's shuffling drum rhythms holding it all together. If there can be such a thing as a thinking man's rock tune, this is what it sounds like. More introspection, modern-style (but with Bach overtones if Bach had written jazz music), on a ten-minute journey into the compositional mind of Watters. This track demands close, careful listening if one is to grab fully the interplay between the musicians. One of the loudest of the conversationalists, and most glib, is the probing, combative soprano sax of Joel Frahm. He fits in like he was called up, invited to a party, and told to "Come as you are." But olé, here comes "Jessica" with an infectious Latin beat to lighten up matters. Then come the standards. The only part of "Stella by Starlight" used is its title. This oft-recorded song (and probably one of the most beautiful of all popular tunes) is given an impressionistic rendering with dazzling piano runs by Marlow and melodic drumming by Frederick built around the assertive horn of leader Watters. "We'll Be Together Again" is accorded much more respectful treatment with a romantic opening by Marlow and Davis-like musing by Watters. Creative modern music is the norm here, and they do it well.

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