Horizon Reaching for New Horizons : Saxophonist Bobby Watson’s group makes its L.A. debut when it appears Tuesday through Sunday at Catalina Bar & Grill.


Saxophonist Bobby Watson used to call the music his band Horizon played “Post Motown Bop.” These days he calls his outfit’s offerings “Present Tense” music, employing the name of Horizon’s first Columbia album.

Both names mean the same thing to the New York-based Watson: They embrace everything from world music and hard bop to ‘60s-style avant-garde jazz to R&B-ish; blues numbers.

“It’s the music of now, 1993,” said Watson, 38, who makes his Los Angeles debut with Horizon Tuesday through Sunday at Catalina Bar & Grill.


“Now” also connotes change to Watson. He says the goal of his band, which is co-led by drummer-composer Victor Lewis, is to play music that is always surprising, always fresh. The saxophonist finds that one way for the group to achieve this aim is to open up the tunes and approach them differently.

“After playing something over and over, I find we’ve gotten farther and farther from what I wrote,” says the hornman, who first received attention as a member of drummer Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers, with whom he played from 1977 to 1981.

Watson says that the melodies of his songs and their form stay the same, but the underlying chord progressions may change from night to night, allowing for tremendous freedom.

“Everybody’s trying not to bore themselves, not repeat themselves,” he added.

Watson credits Lewis and current Horizon pianist Stephen Scott with expanding his personal approach to improvisation. “Stephen is a mischief-maker, musically,” he says with a laugh. “He’s opened me up, allowed me to get into some things that I have been hearing, more chromatic, 12-tone ideas. And with Victor, wherever you want to go musically, it seems like he’s already been there.”

Horizon, which was founded in 1980 and which also includes bassist Essiet Essiet and trumpeter Terrell Stafford, draws on a 60-tune repertoire that comprises all the selections the band has recorded for Blue Note and Columbia. Most of these selections are originals, but there are standards as well. “But we won’t play a standard unless we arranged it, so we can do something different with it,” he says.

Case of Open and Shut: Cabrio’s, the jazz room in the Sheraton Metro Centre hotel in Norwalk that opened last month, is no longer booking jazz musicians. The last artist to appear was guitarist Juan Carlos Quintero, who performed there March 11-13.

“Management decided to pull the plug,” says Jim Vaughan, who was musical director of the room. “The main reason was that the owners didn’t feel the jazz policy was progressing fast enough. When I started it, I said I needed a six-month time frame to get the program established, where it would break even.”

In its short life as a jazz room, Cabrio’s also featured such pianists as Kenny Kirkland and Gerald Wiggins.

In the Racks: “Big Drum” (K2B2-) finds bassist Buell Neidlinger and a brazen crew--longtime associate Marty Krystall (saxes), Hugh Schick, trumpet, and bashing drummer Vinnie Colaiuta--idiosyncratically and zealously investigating modern, sometimes loosely structured material. The selections--two of which are the leader’s “O.P.” and Monk’s “Brilliant Corners"--veer between safe, solid ground and the edge of the aesthetic abyss, managing to swing hard while never taking that fatal plunge into noise and nonsense.

Critic’s Choice: Clare Fischer, the exemplary, exploratory pianist-composer-arranger, is known for leading somewhat large ensembles--one of his bands had four singers and a four-piece rhythm section. But tonight and Saturday at the Club Brasserie, Fischer fronts a tidy quartet that will include one of his favorite musicians, reedman and singer Don Shelton. The leader says that he’ll offer performances that center on spontaneity, with a Latin-based tune or two thrown in for good measure.

On a more romantic note, Fischer on Jan. 18 married his high school sweetheart--the former Donna Van Ringelesteyn--whom he met while playing in the orchestra at South High in Grand Rapids, Mich., more than a few years ago. “I met her again at my high school’s 45th reunion and felt like I was 20,” says Fischer. “Now I can’t tell you how happy we are. There’s a dreamlike quality that neither of us can explain, we’re just living it.”