Bobby Watson: Isfahan




Bobby Watson (alto sax)


The Year of the Rabbit (Evidence 22210)

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Bobby Watson (alto sax),

Irving Stokes (trumpet), Art Baron (trombone), Bill Easley (tenor sax), Jim Hartog (baritone sax), Mulgrew Miller (piano), Lawrence Lucie (guitar), Curtis Lundy (bass), Kenny Washington (drums)


Composed by Billy Strayhorn


Recorded: live at the Jazz Center of New York, February 7, 1987


Rating: 91/100 (learn more)

Since 1987 was the Chinese Year of the Rabbit, Bobby Watson decided to assemble a 9-piece band for a tribute to the "Rabbit" himself, Johnny Hodges, which was recorded live at Cobi Narita's hospitable loft (now defunct) known as the Jazz Center of New York. The performance of the evocative Hodges feature "Isfahan," named after the Iranian city, was one of the evening's highlights. Utilizing an arrangement similar to the original from Ellington/Strayhorn's acclaimed Far East Suite, Watson alters his usual easily identifiable piercing tone to sound instead eerily like Hodges, a sign of respect for the great altoist, although a more personal approach might have worked just as well or even better. In any case, the Dukish voicings of the other horns, and Mulgrew Miller's Ellington-inspired piano embellishments, are gracefully executed as Watson tenderly plays the opening and closing readings of the theme. Even Watson's fills possess Hodges's characteristic economy and subtle punch. There are no solos to disrupt the prevailing sweet-tempered mood, nor are any needed.

Reviewer: Scott Albin

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