Jazz in Britain JIB 39 5 CD

Trevor Watts (soprano & alto saxophones); Liam Genocky (drums)
Recorded by Trevor Watts at Banbury Spice Mill on 3rd November 1989

Trevor Watts calls Liam Genocky a natural drummer.  Genocky’s background in rock was no barrier to Watts and he describes in the album notes how he took Genocky on tour at almost a moment’s notice.

Watt’s belief in improvisation extends beyond music.

He sensed that they would have a good relationship, personally as well as musically. Watts knew that they would be able to work together leaving enough space for harmony as well as space for individual expression.

He realised that they would be able to make ‘something not out of practised cliche, but whatever came up in the moment.’

The sparseness of drum and saxophone duo calls for bravery on the part of the participants and patience on the part of the audience, although you are almost guaranteed the sound of surprise.

Trevor Watts is committed and has worked in a number of contexts. In the last year we heard the album ‘Splinters Inclusivity’ where he was part of a remarkable group that included Tubby Hayes.

He has worked with the New Jazz Orchestra and founded the Spontaneous Music Ensemble. His own group was Amalgam and more recently he created Moire Music.

The first track ‘Rhythmic Variants’ is a masterly feat of improvisation from Watts.

At first, Genocky seems lost and his inspiration seems faltering.  That does not matter because Watts is full of passion: his tone is searing and then whispering.

You have the feeling that Watts will go his own way no matter who is on the kit behind him.

The Watts’ sound is assured, very rhythmic, replete with ideas, music teems out of him in a breath-taking creative generosity.  Genocky gains confidence as the track continues.

Watts leads but the pulses from Genocky start to inspire the alto.  The torrent of ideas is almost intimidating.

The track lasts over 28 minutes and there is not a pause: indeed, the track fades and the playing is still going on.  There are times when there is ferocity and Genocky matches the alto.

With Watts you hear faint traces of the improvisations of Ornette Coleman.  Yet, I have never heard Coleman improvise at this length. Coleman can be more lyrical but he does not sustain such a narrative.

Genocky makes little use of cymbals but when he does it is almost light relief from the barrage.

One effect that is almost sublime is when the cymbals ring out and the sound wraps round the improvised high harmonics of the alto.

Often titles in jazz are improvise at meaningless: ‘Rhythmic Variants’ is entirely appropriate. Not sure how appropriate ‘Echoes of Bird’ is.  With a title like this you invite comparisons.

Watts has all the passion of Bird and the occasional passing resemblance to Parker. However, he can do things that Bird did not do and probably did not wish to do.

There is a pleasant sequence where Genocky uses cymbals like a bop drummer. This is followed by a meditative section where a closely miked Watts almost purrs and flutters as Genocky struts out a rhythm with Watts increasing intensity splatting out notes.

Genocky’s drums in this section are far from Max Roach and at times he seems like an African drum choir as he underpins a soaring Watts.

There is emphasis on dynamics in the middle section as Watts holds long notes over Genocky’s gentle exploration of his kit.

On ‘Dedicated to Eric D’ at first Watts has a light touch before a gradual build to high harmonics with Genocky creating his own brand of swing. Dolphy’s intensity is replicated.

This is an enthralling album, thrillingly varied.  There is a complex relationship between two intense committed individuals who value their own integrity and the unique qualities of their own voices.

Reviewed by Jack Kenny