Here’s a homebrewed crime jazz soundtrack, noir steeped and ready for beat cop voice over. Despite lack of formal music training, Jail Weddings drummer Brian Watson wrote two suites of music, recruited players via Craigslist APB, and rehearsed, recorded, and released the evidence on Kill Shaman. And amazingly, what could have been a disaster comes off with nary a misstep, leaping out fully formed as if from the head of Zeus with thrilling bop chases, syncopated intrigue, and cliffhanger endings.
You’ll hear Monk and Mingus, and the atmospheric motion of Angelo Badalamenti for sure, but Watts Ensemble is something unique. The tight drumming is a contributor, but it’s a modern classical influence which ensures “Crime and Time” balances melody and swing with mood and texture. Stravinsky is Watson’s top suspect, and the Russian master is investigated thoroughly. The stakeout reveals a surprising commonality between a work like “The Rite of Spring” and free jazz- for in both, instruments cycle and dart around an unfixed center as meter loosens its grip. It’s at this unlikely crossroads that Watts Ensemble are at their most transfixing.
The release would still slay if Watson had been at this for years. For a first effort, it’s a marvel. There’s great musicianship joined with the risk and excitement of trying something new and having no idea where exactly it will lead. You can feel the sense of discovery in a tactile and dynamic way. Closer, “Fall” ends with a mysterious haze of piano, brass, and strings, hopefully leaving the door open to a sequel.
10/10 -- Mike Pursley (23 September, 2009)