Thursday, May 31, 2012

Bill Watrous - Manhattan Wildlife Refuge (1974)

A rarer album in electronic format as it was only printed by Wounded Bird for a limited release, this album showcases how great of a soloist Watrous can be. Famously when Watrous was trying to get signed by Columbia, one man remarked, "that guy doesn't have any chops." After listening to this album with tracks like "Fourth Floor Walk-Up," it is pretty clear that the one man at Columbia was very uninformed. Watrous was a studio player in New York City after a stint with the Merv Griffin show playing with the likes of trombonists like Urbie Green and Slide Hampton. During the 70s Watrous formed a big band, which when Watrous eventually relocated to Los Angeles was renamed "Refuge West." Watrous has an uncanny ability to play in the upper register of the horn with ease while having incredible flexibility on the horn as well. Highlights of the album include a cover of Chick Corea's "Spain" which is fantastic arrangement by John LaBarbera. To the experienced listener, you will hear soprano sax on this track and many others which is atypical to big band but really adds a lot as a solo instrument as well when playing with the sax section. The track "Fourth Floor Walk-Up" showcases the virtuosity of Watrous and his ability to play all over the horn. His entrance to the cadenza section makes many wonder if he's still playing trombone, especially because it is the same note that the lead trumpet just played. There are a variety of styles here from latin, funk, to many more.


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