CD The Wonder Bag [664140901124] (CD 1152797),
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The Wonder Bag [664140901124]

  • 1. Nothing's Too Good for My Baby
    2. Never Had a Dream Come True
    3. I'd Be a Fool Right Now
    4. My Cherie Amour
    5. You Met Your Match
    6. Ain't No Lovin'
    7. I Was Made to Love Her
    8. Angie Girl
    9. Ain't That Askin' for Trouble
  • Additional Info
    Manufacturer Part Number (MPN): 9011

  • Credits
    ProducerRichard Bock

    Personnel: Ernie Watts (flute, tenor saxophone, baritone saxophone); David T. Walker (guitar); Chuck Findley, Jay DaVersa (trumpet); Charles Loper (trombone); George Bohanon (tenor trombone, bass trombone); Joe Sample (piano); Paul Humphrey & the Cool Aid Chemists (drums); Francisco Aguabella (congas).
    Author: Stevie Wonder.
    Arranger: Kim Richmond.
    Saxophonist Ernie Watts is best known for his work in the 1980s and '90s with Charlie Haden in Quartet West, and as a leader of some very distinctive dates where his big-boned sound finds its lineage in John Coltrane. Before this creative period as a leader, however, Watts had played in ensembles led by the great Gerald Wilson, Oliver Nelson, Buddy Rich, with Jean-Luc Ponty, and as a member of the Tonight Show Band. He also played dates as a sideman with Stanley Clarke and Lee Ritenour. In other words, Watts is one of the more diverse players on the scene. The Wonder Bag, recorded under his own name -- actually, as the Ernie Watts Encounter -- in 1972 is his first date as a leader. The band that includes such soul-jazz and jazz-funk luminaries as Crusaders' pianist Joe Sample, guitarist David T. Walker, and drummer Paul Humphrey also includes congeuro Francisco Aguabella and bassist Bob West, and features guests like Chuck Findley and George Bohannon and a couple of others on the track "Sweetening," who form an extended horn section. This Ernie Watts is a very different player than would emerge in later years, yet not only are all the roots here, but The Wonder Bag is an overlooked soul-jazz classic. Watts is using his harsher-edged tone, but the music is seamlessly groovy, warm, and wonderful. Sample plays Rhodes as much as he does acoustic piano; Walker offers proof as to why he was in such demand during the era (Phil Upchurch was his only peer). This stellar program concentrates all of its efforts on the subject of its title: the music of Stevie Wonder. Whether it's the finger-popping celebratory funkiness in "Nothing's Too Good for My Baby," the lithe, airy "My Cherie Amour" (Watts' flute here is deeply moving and lyrical), the stomping dancefloor strut of "I Was Made to Love Her," (featuring a burning Coltrane-inspired solo, some great breaks, and early L.A. reggae) the backbone slipping, expressively romantic, "Never Had a Dream Come True," or the wildly lyrical deep soul essence of "Ain't No Lovin" -- where Watts brings out the deep jazz at the heart of Wonder's melody -- this set is a kind of feel-good revelation. Richard Bock's production is less polished than Creed Taylor's, Bob James', or Don Sebesky's, but it is expansive and wonderfully groovy. The arrangements are there to serve the tune, not showcase the band. Watts' solos and his interaction with Sample and Walker are inventive, tasty, and worth their weight in gold. The Wonder Bag is all killer, no filler, and should be picked up by anyone who is a fan of early-'70s soul and jazz-funk and groove, as well as anyone who has ever liked Watts' tone. Highly recommended. ~ Thom Jurek

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