Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Bobby Watson: The Gates BBQ Suite

Lafiya Music
By Ric Bang
Buy CD: The Gates BBQ Suite

Alto saxophonist Bobby Watson grew up in Kansas City, graduated from the University of Miami, then moved to New York City and joined Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers. After four years with that august group, Watson was much in demand, playing with many notable groups and vocalists.

His discography is extensive; he has 26 albums as a leader and more than 100 as a sideman. He has served on the faculty of several universities and, for the past six years, has been the director of jazz studies at the University of Missouri-Kansas City Conservatory of Music. That institution’s 17-piece concert jazz orchestra is featured on this album.

Countless individuals, locations and events have inspired artists to compose music, but this may be the first that relates to a restaurant: Gates Barbeque originally was run by Watson’s grandparents (Jessy and Daisy Wilkes) in Merriam, Kansas, and is a key element of his life. (The Kansas City area now has multiple locations.)

As Watson puts it, “Smoking meat remains near and dear to me.”

The seven movements in this suite cover elements associated with the restaurant, beginning with the greeting that customers receive when they enter (“May I Help You”), orders to the chef (“Heavy on the Sauce”), items on the menu (“Beef on Bun” and “The President’s Tray”), employees (“Blues for Ollie” and “Wilkes BBQ”) and even closing time (“One Minute Too Late”).

It’s an imaginative and fun composition … and, most importantly, it swings.

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