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ALBUM REVIEW: "Wheel of Time"


Ernie Watts

"Wheel of Time"

Flying Dolphin Records

Over a long and illustrious career, saxophonist Ernie Watts has played with jazz greats like Thelonious Monk, Cannonball Adderley, and Ella Fitzgerald, and pop stars like Carole King, Marvin Gaye, and Steely Dan, just to name a few. His new album, "Wheel of Time," featuring his European band of 15 years, finds Watts in brilliant form on tenor saxophone (in the John Coltrane tradition) and as a composer-arranger. Right from the first irresistible tune, Watts's "Letter From Home," this album could rival a classic 1950's Blue Note masterpiece.

Watts's bandmates — Christof Saenger on piano; Rudi Engel, bass; and Heinrich Koebberling, drums — may not be household names in the American jazz world, but they are among Europe's top players. Each of them contributes a strong tune to the album to complement four by Watts. The CD is rounded out by wonderful renditions of Joe Henderson's "Inner Urge" and Canadian pianist Adrean Farrugia's joyful "Goose Dance." Watts ends the disc with the title tune, a philosophical ballad evoking life's changes. "Wheel of Time" is dedicated to Watts's long-time band mate in Quartet West, the great bassist Charlie Haden.