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Bobby Watson - Back Home in Kansas City (Smoke Sessions)

6 October 2022

As both a leader and a prolific session musician, alto saxophonist Bobby Watson has had a long and productive career since attending the University of Miami at the same time as Pat Metheny and Jaco Pastorious. His heart always beat for Kansas City, however – both as a Lawrence-born Kansas native and, later, as Director of Jazz Studies at the University of Missouri-Kansas City’s Conservatory of Music & Dance until his 2020 retirement. Back Home in Kansas City pays tribute both to the influence the city had on him, and the impact its iteration of jazz had on the music itself. KC likes the blues, and so does Watson, so many of these cuts have an azure hue, even if they’re much closer to bop than boogie. From the easy swing of “Our Love Remains” – co-written by his wife Pamela – to the silky soul of John Coltrane’s “Dear Lord,” the frisky bop of John Hicks’ “Mind Wine” to the Latin-tinged charge of “Bon Voyage,” the smoky roll of “Blues for Alto” to the jaunty strut of the title track, Watson feels the blues in every solo and melody without ever lapsing into cliché. Accompanied by pianist Cyrus Chestnut, trumpeter Jeremy Pelt and his longtime rhythm section of drummer Victor Jones and bassist Curtis Lundy, Watson lays into the groove with expert technique, exquisite taste and feel for miles.