JVC-2031-2 Reaching Up
Produced by Akira Taguchi and Ernie Watts
Released on Jauary 18, 1994
no chart information
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JVC-2031-2 cover
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E rnie Watts is a tenor saxophonist of some note. A lot of notes, really. Maybe a tenor saxophonist of too many notes on Reaching Up. Recorded over two days in October, this session features Watts, Jack DeJohnette, pianist Mulgrew Miller and upright bassist Charles Fambrough playing mostly original compositions (many cowritten with pianist David Witham) plus a trio of covers with Coltrane connections (“Mr. Syms,” “I Hear A Rhapsody,” “You Leave Me Breathless”). The disc was well received by critics, All Music Guide going so far as to name it Watts’ brightest hour. Honestly, I don’t see Watts the big deal. Reaching Up is a good jazz record, but we live in a world full of good jazz records. In point of fact, the quality of jazz musicians doesn’t allow for many “bad” jazz records. Even so, a rare few transcend the elevated medium of the jazz album and Reaching Up simply isn’t one of them—to me anyway. Despite a handful of what I perceive to be standout tracks (“Transparent Sea,” “Inward Glance,” “Sweet Solitude”), nothing on this set knocked me out of my seat. Maybe my world of jazz has a too-small circumference, or perhaps it’s just that my jazz tastes run left of center, and Watts is very much a middle man. Reaching Up is regular old jazz served up in the usual settings: ballads, tempests, melody and mayhem. You’d have to have a chin of granite not to let your jaw drop a little during the solos from Watts and DeJohnette on “Sweet Lucy,” and ears of tin not to find the samesaid solos unpleasurably noisy. Since I am not a student of Coltrane, I couldn’t tell you where the two tenor saxmen converge. I don’t recall Coltrane being so notey, though I guess the upper register squeaks and squeals is a trane thang; missing is the muted, otherwordly side of the mature Coltrane. I don’t want to deny Watts his day (or days) in the sun, I’m just pretty sure there are brighter moments than “Reaching Up” to be found among his works, at least as far as prog/fusion fans are concerned. Jazz purists, however, might be tickled pink by this disc, though they’re a pickled lot for sure and best left to their own dusty devices.


  1. REACHING UP    (Ernie Watts/David Witham)    7:49
  2. MR. SYMS    (John Coltrane)    8:53
  3. I HEAR A RHAPSODY    (Jack Baker/George Fragos/Dick Gasparre)    5:55
  4. TRANSPARENT SEA    (Ernie Watts/David Witham)    6:12
  5. THE HIGH ROAD    (Charles Fambrough)    5:21
  6. INWARD GLANCE    (Ernie Watts)    5:38
  7. YOU LEAVE ME BREATHLESS    (Frederick Hollander/Ralph Freed)    6:53
  8. SWEET LUCY    (Charles Fambrough)    4:31
  9. ANGEL'S FLIGHT    (Ernie Watts/David Witham)    10:20
  10. SWEET SOLITUDE    (Ernie Watts/David Witham)    3:57


ERNIE WATTS -- saxophones
CHARLES FAMBROUGH -- acoustic bass
Arturo Sandoval -- trumpet (1,5)
Takashi Misu -- executive producer
Jim Anderson -- engineer
Peter Grant -- art direction and design
Janette Beckman -- photography

US January 18, 1994 JVC CD JVC-2031-2  


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