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Reviewers: Don Mather, Tony Augarde, Dick Stafford, John Eyles, Robert Gibson, Ian Lace, Colin Clarke, Jack Ashby

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Jaded Angels

ACT 9452-2 [51:36]




Jaded Angels (Watson) [7:57]
Ghosts on the Wall (Watson) [6:08]
Fallen Angels (Watson) [6:44]
Ice Lady (Watson) [7:33]
Dice in the Sky (Watson) [10:17]
Consolation (Watson) [4:31]
House of Mirrors (Watson) [8:18]
Eric Watson (piano)
Peter Herbert (bass)
Christophe Marguet (drums)
rec. Studio La Fonderie, Malakoff, France, no date given

Born in 1955, the American pianist Eric Watson moved to Paris in 1978, having studied classical piano, composition and jazz improvisation at the Oberlin Conservatory. Since then he has built up a very considerable reputation as both soloist and accompanist; he has worked with many major figures in jazz – they include Steve Lacy and Albert Mangelsdorff, Paul Motian and Ray Anderson. His work has won him many awards and much critical praise in France, but his reputation barely seems to have reached the UK. It is our loss that we haven’t heard so much of his music.

Albums under his own name have included Silent Hearts (1999) a trio recording with Mark Dresser and Ed Thigpen, a solo ballad anthology, Sketches of Solitude (2002) and, in a quartet co-led with German saxophonist Christoph Lauer, Road Movies (2004). Watson has also written a good deal of chamber music and music for dance companies.

On this present trio album Watson is joined by two experienced collaborators, in Herbert and Marguet, and their familiarity with one another’s work is everywhere evident. There is a seemingly intuitive interplay between the three. It is a largely ruminative collection, only rarely getting above medium-slow tempo; this does make for a certain sameness of mood, but it also serves to attune one to a particular idiom so closely that one becomes aware of even the subtlest changes. The one substantial exception is Dice in the Sky, ten minutes of harder-edged, more obviously swinging music, leaving one in no doubts as to range of skills which these musicians bring to the table. All the compositions are credited to Watson, but in truth it is often very hard to be sure where composed music ends and improvised music begins.

Some of Watson’s lines inevitably remind one of Bill Evans; at other times Paul Bley – and even a kind of less intense Cecil Taylor – comes to mind. I mention these names not to suggest that Watson’s work is merely derivative, which it most definitely isn’t, but just to indicate something of the kind of musical territory it occupies. There are plenty of attractive melodies, often with unexpected twists and turns and there are some subtle rhythmic and harmonic inventions.

Anyone who enjoys the post-Evans piano trio is urged to investigate this consistently interesting album, which impresses both by the sheer craftsmanship of those involved, but also in terms of the feel of honesty which it exudes and the high level of imaginative commitment.

Glyn Pursglove


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