Monday, 17 October 2016

Tuesday, 7 June 2016

Live review June 2016 Trevor Watts & Veryan Weston at Hastings Jazz Festival

Hastings seems to have belatedly woken up to the fact that one of the genuine jazz and new music innovators, saxophonist Trevor Watts, is living in the town and a gratifyingly large crowd duly turned up at the Hastings Jazz Festival last Saturday to witness a peerless ninety minutes of improvisation in a duo with long time musical partner, pianist Veryan Weston.
Trevor has, of course, been one of the architects of a new musical language forged back in the 1960s in the Spontaneous Music Ensemble and his influences in terms of composition and World Music, as well as improvising, are legion. Veryan too has deep roots in improvisation and this particular duo with Trevor has been going for over 15 years.
Saturday's concert featured Veryan using an electronic midi keyboard set up which added many different sounds to his sonic palette, without ever descending into using the sounds for their own sakes. Even in the midst of complex improvisations everything fitted together and keyboard and sax dovetailed telepathically to send alternately rich and ethereal sounds out into the gathering Hastings dusk. There were no solos as such during the course of the three improvisations. This music is all about listening, reacting and respecting and it's impossible to tell which musician is taking the lead at any given moment. Both musicians took us on a global trip over the ninety or so minutes of performance, Trevor's serpentine soprano evoking eastern musics at times and Veryan taking us to the Caribbean, to name but two. Trevor also played muscular and delicate alto to fit the music. This was a music for close, eyes closed examination whilst also connecting more physically with younger audience members.
The concert finished to great audience applause. Thanks to all the festival sponsors for putting this duo on - adventurous bookings can work!

The double CD Dialogues in Two Places is available at

Wednesday, 25 May 2016

Excellent Dalston Sound review of Cynosure (HFHCD018) by Trevor Watts String Ensemble.

Here's the link:

Trevor Watts Cynosure (HFHCD018) on Resonance FM programme by Derek Walmsley of The Wire

Listen here:

Cynosure - Trevor Watts String Ensemble - review by Daniel Spicer in The Wire June 2016 issue

Many thanks to Daniel Spicer for this review:
'To anyone who knew Trevor Watts principally as a pioneer of free improvisation and co-founder, in 1965, of The Spontaneous Music Ensemble, the saxophonist's Moire Music Ensemble must have seemed like a radical stylistic leap when it first blazed forth in 1982 as a horn-heavy tentet combining dense improvisation with African rhythms and minimalist compositional strategies. Yet, for more than a decade, he'd already been demonstrating that he was free enough to break out of the non-idiomatic idiom, through his lesser known unit, Amalgam.
That trio's 1969 debut Prayer for Peace roved from sparse, Ayler-esque lament to hard-swinging be-bop powered by drummer John Stevens and bassist Jeff Clyne. By the end of the 1970s, Amalgam had moved into muscular but loosely rolling jazz rock, pushed on by the relentless energy of drummer Liam Genockey and electric bassist Colin McKenzie (both of whom went on to form the rhythmic backbone of Moire Music).
These recordings from 1976, the only existing evidence of Watts' short-lived String Ensemble, are a further link in the chain. With the core of Watts, Genockey and McKenzie augmented by violin, cello, double bass and two electric guitars, Moire Music's driving rhythmic imperative is already in full effect, providing a canvas for sprawling yet intricate group improvisation. 'Another Time' kicks off with a thumping highlife backbeat before spiralling into slippery, harmolodic free funk prefiguring Ronald Shannon Jackson's Decoding Society, with spidery twin guitars weaving around Watts' bobbing alto. 'No Waiting' piles up disconnected melodic fragments, sloppily coalescing into a stilted polyrhythmic framework over which Watts blurts soaring bursts and leaps on soprano. And 'Chip' is a furiously racing fusion jam with Steve Donachie's violin achieving Mahavishnoid levels of intensity.
Released on the Ogun label in 1978, this session's relative obscurity owes much to its rough and raw sound quality. The original tracks are from rehearsals, held in a London squat and captured by Watts on cassette tape, with three slightly better quality, previously unissued live performances included here. Watts evidently felt the music was vital enough to deserve documentation by whatever rudimentary means were available to him at the time. He was damn right, too.

Cynosure - Trevor Watts String Ensemble - 4 star review on R2 magazine May/June 2016 issue

Thanks to Trevor Hodgett for this excellent review: ' Cynosure? A person who is the centre of admiration. Well, alto and soprano saxophonist Trevor Watts is certainly that for he has been one of the most compelling figures in British jazz since the 1960s, when he co-founded the bracingly abstract Spontaneous Music Ensemble before, in the 1980s and beyond, leading the African music-influenced Moire Music.
Cynosure was recorded in 1976 and originally issued by Ogun in 1978. On tracks like 'Another Time' and 'Chip' the band, an octet, plays with raging power, with the musical emphasis being on the ensemble, on collective improvisation. Watts' colleagues are all technically formidable and fearless sounding improvisers (the drummer, some might be surprised to note, is long-time Steeleye Span member Liam Genockey) and after playing the album some listeners might find themselves exhausted by the unceasing intensity and ferocity of the music - but equally they are likely to find themselves strangely exhilarated by the adventurousness of the playing.
The label's motto is 'music that deserves to be out there' and the music on Cynosure, including the three live bonus tracks added to the reissue, is, I'm happy to say, out there in more ways than one.

Sunday, 27 March 2016

Trevor Watts music available for download from Bandcamp

Go here:

Heath Common eps available to donwload on Bandcamp

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Jazzwise (Andy Robson) review of Cynosure by Trevor Watts String Ensemble (HFHCD018) March 2016

Thanks to Andy Robson for his excellent review of Cynosure by Trevor Watts String Ensemble in the latest issue of Jazzwise: If collective free improvisation sum...mons images of furrowed brows and unsmiling aural assaults then stick this platter in your play box and start grinning now. Watts' ensemble is one mess'n'mass of songs of joy. It helps that this is primarily a rehearsal recording so there's a 'go for it' vibe that isn't quite so apparent on the three 'in concert' tracks, although these are perfectly enjoyable. But the rehearsal cut of 'No Waiting' is phenomenal, not least for the sheer energy of its delivery, the perpetual motion guitar themes weaving through the ensemble set-ups and the spark and burn of the collective soloing. Watts is ecstatic throughout while Genockey connives to clatter and storm behind it all like a man possessed. This is a tribal groove machine cooking hard and reveals how Watts' confidence had grown since he'd begun to step free of his admirable work with John Stevens. It also reveals the confidence of the Brit free scene of the time , brimming with an energy that our current crop of excellent but, shall we say, a tad tight-lipped young performers could do with accessing.

Record Collector Magazine (Spencer Grady) review of Cynosure by Trevor Watts String Ensemble (HFHCD018) March 2016

The case for the common image of free improvisers as a bunch of Po-faced, polemically puffed up theory-pushers gets the eye-bite from this keen re-issue. Saxophonist Watts, newly liberated from John Stevens' close watch, threw off the shackles of non-idiomatic dogma in the mid 70s to revel in an astonishing series of flesh-quaking polyrhythms which presage much of his later Afro-influenced work, most notably with the Moire Music ensemble.
Unlike the unhappy tyrannies which tormented Watts' SME tenure, here he'd fired up a collective for cow-handed carnival, cheering merry with a suite of flexible compositions, rowdy and partially unhinged, delivering a distinctly British take on the big band blowouts of both Ra and Kuti. The rawness of these recordings - three live cuts from a 1976 performance at London's Notre Dame Theatre have been appended to the original tracks - do nothing to diminish the joyful zeal of their fratchy attack, the tinny tones disseminating the boundless enthusiasm like a nipper with a super-soaker primed with punch.