ERNIE WATTS QUARTET, Home Light
The title track and sweeping grand finale of the Ernie Watts’ quartet sublime, stylistically eclectic and multi-dimensional Home Light is a gospel tinged dedication to the memory of saxophonist’s dear friend, famed drummer Ndugu Chancler.
Passionately infused with both melancholy and life affirming joy, it’s the emotional centerpiece of a recording that grooves and darts in many different directions – almost as if to celebrate Chancler’s life and our own. The quartet bounces whimsically through lighthearted romps like “I Forgot August” (built on the harmonic structure of “I’ll Remember April,” almost like a sequel) and Watts’ own flight of fancy “Frequie Flyiers,” then tones down to a slow and meditative – yet still eminently jazzy – state on “Horizon.” It finds a delightful middle ground on Otmaro Ruiz’s bright and playful “Distant Friends,” which includes an otherworldly piano solo by longtime quartet member Christof Saenger.
Interestingly, the one other obvious tribute “Joe” – a nod to Joe Henderson - takes the opposite approach from the group’s celebration of Ndugu. It’s pure, rambunctious Latin jamming from the get go, reminding us that there are many ways to honor, enjoy and perpetuate the great mysteries of life.