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Sunday, April 13, 2008

Trevor Watts & Jamie Harris - Ancestry (Entropy, 2007) ****½

Brilliant! British alto saxophonist Trevor Watts and percusionnist Jamie Harris play 13 songs of free improvisation, but how : rhythmic, free, melodic, intense, jubilant, sad, with musical influences from around the globe : Africa, Asia, the Middle-East, Europe, and then jazz of course. Time-Out Magazine announced their life performance last year as an "intoxicating tribal jazz-dance", and that's a pretty good description. Watts has of course decades of musical experience, and he has played in all kinds of genres and ensembles, from the avant-garde Spontaneous Music Ensemble to his own Moiré percussion bands, which blend African rhythms with free blowing. On this album, he brings the music back to its barest essence, and as usual - for me at least - that works best. And his technique is superb. On "Maribor Memories", for instance, he plays the entire tune through circular breathing and extremely melodic, with tempo changes and all, instead of the usual repetitive drone you might expect. If there is one downside to the recording, it's the fact that some tracks are just extracts from the performance, with fade-ins and fade-outs. I hate that, especially when the music is so good, because it just gives you a taste of what you have missed.