Reggie Watkins | One for Miles One for Maynard

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One for Miles One for Maynard

by Reggie Watkins

Contemporary Jazz Trombone
Genre: Jazz: Hard Bop
Release Date: 

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  Song Share Time Download
1. Shh
5:24 $2.99
2. Expecting You
4:59 $1.99
3. Chala Nata
5:21 $2.99
4. Contemplation
9:01 $1.99
5. Sound Judgement
7:06 $1.99
6. I Can't Help It
4:27 $1.99
7. Full Sun
4:34 $1.99
8. Hurdles
3:25 $1.99
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Album Notes
Even though Pittsburgh has gifted the world with such greats as Billy Strayhorn, Earl Hines, Billy
Eckstine, Kenny Clarke, Erroll Garner, Mary Lou Williams, Art Blakey, Stanley Turrentine, Ahmad
Jamal, and George Benson, it is rarely thought of as much of a jazz town anymore.
Trombonist Reggie Watkins, who has traveled to enough places outside of the land of the Steelers and
Pirates to know better, begs to differ. “Pittsburgh punches above its weight,” says the West Virginia
native of his adopted town. “It’s a fertile jazz scene for its size.”
Exhibit A in Watkins’s case against misperception is One for Miles, One for Maynard, his infectious
new album. Produced by the trombonist and recorded in the Iron City’s historic Heid Studio, the
recording features a cast of terrific and versatile players from the area including the rhythm section of
pianist Howard Alexander III of the Afro American Music Institute, double bassist Jeff Grubbs of the
Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, and drummer David Throckmorton, a “monster” player, said Watkins,
whose father Bob drummed with singer Buddy Greco, among others.
Those names, plus those of trumpeter Ian Gordon, lead trumpeter Steve Hawk, and saxophonist Rick
Matt, may not be familiar to people in other cities. But they’re all highly regarded players—as is
Brooklyn wild card Matt Parker. Like Watkins, Throckmorton and Matt, he’s an alumnus of Maynard
Ferguson’s Big Bop Nouveau.
“Maynard had a wave of Pittsburgh musicians in his band,” says Watkins. “He’d come through town and,
based on recommendations, snap people up. That band worked nine months out of the year and played a
million gigs. I got so much out of it.”
One for Miles, One for Maynard includes an intriguing version of Ferguson’s “Chala Nata,” a spacey
raga-meets-big band concoction from his 1970 release, M.F. Horn. In lieu of sitar, Watkins has Craig
(Izzy) Arlet play lap steel guitar. With its soulful blasts (dig Parker’s exotic soprano), scratch effects,
samples, and funky groove—and minus the original bridge—the tune undergoes one of the happiest
transformations of recent times.
In contrast, the “one” for Miles Davis, “Shh,” from In a Silent Way, is a moody, seductive piece that
seems to float into your consciousness while grabbing you with its Eddie Harris–Les McCann groove.
“That was one of those records you just lose yourself in,” says Watkins. “I wanted to play it in a relaxed,
thoughtful mode. I wanted the bass line to be half of what it is, to create space.”
If there was a lesson Watkins learned from both Maynard and Miles, it was that jazz can—and should—
go anywhere it wants, stylistically. “A lot of jazz musicians lose sight of the whole notion of appealing to
as many people as possible. They overlook the importance of melody, and simplicity. If you take a simple
thing and give it lots of attention, great things come out of it.”
Watkins makes offers no rationalizations or excuses for his long tenure with Jason Mraz. He played with
the pop artist (“I’m Yours”) from 2008 to 2013 as part of The Grooveline Horns, an Austin, Texas–
based pop and funk horn section that prides itself on being able to play anything from Engelbert
Humperdinck to the Beastie Boys. On the contrary, Watkins values his experience with Mraz as much as
any in his career.
“I’m into all parts of music, everything,” says Watkins, who lived in Austin during most of his
association with Mraz. “There’s nothing I'm adamantly against. It was refreshing to gain perspective,
going back and forth from jazz bands to Jason. I found out that I really loved section work. And
Grooveline is a great section to work in.”
Reggie Watkins was born on August 24, 1971 in Wheeling, West Virginia. He played trumpet and tuba
in high school before switching to valve trombone, then eventually slide trombone. It was as a music
major at West Virginia University that he was first exposed to the playing of ’bone legend J.J. Johnson.
“From the first moment I heard him solo, my life was changed,” he said. “I listened to a lot of other
trombonists, including Frank Rosolino and Carl Fontana and Slide Hampton, all of whom had great
technique. But J.J.’s melodic concept, the clarity of his tone, just the image of him playing got to me. As
dazzled as I was by his speed, it was those other things that mattered the most.”
In Pittsburgh, Watkins was influenced by Roger Humphries, the local legend known for playing with
Horace Silver on such classic albums as Song for My Father. Watkins became involved in various bands
and gained a reputation for his strong, groove-minded playing.
In 1999, he became Ferguson's trombonist, music director, and arranger. He is featured as a trombonist
and arranger on Swingin’ for Schuur, the 2001 album the trumpeter made with singer Diane Schuur.
In 2003, Watkins performed at the 16th annual Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz Competition—the only
one dedicated to the trombone. He didn’t win—that honor went to Andre Heyward of the Lincoln Center
Jazz Orchestra. But he was thrilled to have been chosen as one of 11 semi-finalists by trombone greats
Conrad Herwig and Eddie Bert and to perform with the all-star rhythm section of Eric Reed, Robert
Hurst, and Carl Allen.
“I also got to perform in front of my idols,” he said. “It was an amazing experience.”
The next year, Watkins recorded his first album, A-List, which was part of the Maynard Ferguson
Presents series. The recording featured his compositions and arrangements.
One for Miles, One for Maynard includes three pieces by the leader. He wrote the gently swaying
“Expecting You” for his wife a few days after they found out she was pregnant with their first child. “It’s
my version of a pop tune,” said the trombonist, whose playing emits a gentle but still forceful glow.
“Sound Judgment” reflects his fondness for contemporary trombone players of his including Steve
Davis and Marshall Gilkes. “I don't really know how to talk about this song,” he said. “We’re not the
same kind of players, but I love their approach.” In the end, Watkins’s assured hard bop groove speaks for
Then there's “Hurdles,” which addresses the ongoing struggle most trombonists experience in playing
up-tempo “without resorting to parlor tricks.” Watkins certainly reveals no problems here coasting across
boppish terrain with pep and soulful vigor.
The album, which never runs out of highlights, also features a thoughtful reading of McCoy Tyner’s
“Contemplation,” which is frequently a jam session tune but here becomes a fluid group meditation
centered on Throckmorton’s hand-in-glove strokes with percussionist Carmelo Torres, who lends a
graceful Latin edge. All of the soloists, including Rick Matt and Parker, Alexander, and the leader (in
lyrical form), are first-rate.
Parker contributed two compositions: “I Can’t Help It,” a neat vehicle for side-by-side playing by
Watkins and him, and “Full Sun,” a spirited salute to Benny Golson and Curtis Fuller that’s featured in a
very different arrangement on Parker’s album, Worlds Put Together.
Rest assured that before Parker made it back to New York, Watkins and crew had jabbed more than
enough of the Pittsburgh sound into him to draw him back very soon. That's the kind of punch Watkins
and his fellow Iron Cityites have. •
Reggie Watkins: One for Miles, One for Maynard
(Corona Music)
Street Date: August 26, 2014
Web Site:
Media Contact:
Terri Hinte



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