On Water and Blood, composer and trombonist John Rapson pays tribute to drummer Billy Higgins. Starting from recorded solos by Higgins and duets by the drummer and bassist Roberto Miranda, Rapson builds up a series of varied, colorful settings, featuring several notable solo voices. The horn and guitar solos and the ensemble parts were overlaid in several different sessions, both in Los Angeles and in Iowa, over the course of two years. It's a wonder of both engineering and musicianship that this is all so seamless, easily passing for a session done with all parties in the same place at the same time. Many of the pieces have a dark, almost ominous cast with busy yet uncluttered horn lines. The use of organ provides a particularly piquant touch. Steve Grismore's guitar lends an element of free fusion to several tracks. The lighthearted Latin groove that arises midway through "Rosewood and Palms" and the burst of playful lyricism in "Pork for Popcorn" provide some lighthearted relief. Bobby Bradford, Vinny Golia, and Kim Richmond stand out among the soloists, and get ample opportunity to exhibit their skills in direct yet adventurous extemporization. Rapson's own solo on "Waking in a Strange Bed" grows so much out of Higgins' solo that it sounds like it was created simultaneously, not a year later. It's a testament to the connection Rapson feels to the drummer's work. That same empathy informs all of this warm-hearted tribute.
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AllMusic Review by David Dupont