|From the liner notes to Marzette Watts' other recording, a photo of multiple exposures showing the artist/musician standing in front of one of his paintings, tenor at the ready. Photo from "Marzette Watts and Company," ESP|
Long-time visitors to this blog know that as a college student I worked in a Discount Records store in upstate New York. Those were the days when recorded jazz was in serious remission. The heyday of the great independent jazz labels (Blue Note, Prestige, Riverside) had passed and the majors were mostly focusing on mining the huge profits that could be made from "progressive" rock. Things were so bad that the Schwann Catalog listed only one Charlie Parker record in print. I kid you not.
|Most record stores in the 1970s had vast |
quantities of cut-out records for sale, usually –
as in this photo – at the back of the store.
We also had the entire BYG Actuel series with Braxton, the AEC, Archie Shepp and Clifford Thornton. Being enamored of the avant garde, I was most interested in those and any other "outre" LPs in our melange of cut-outs. One record caught my eye because of its striking cover. There was only one copy in the bins and it was a bit worse for wear with torn shrink wrap and a partially split cover. It was entitled "Marzette."
We were allowed as Discount Records employees to open any record in the shop for in-store play.I had of cache of sides I liked to listen to while ringing out customers, and I added "Marzette" to them. From the liner notes, I gathered that Marzette Watts was a painter/film maker who also played tenor. He was evidently pals with Bill Dixon, a horn player and composer I knew from his association with Archie Shepp. The music was typical "free jazz" of the period, not terribly together and not very good. Watts was, in my twenty-something judgment, a fairly mediocre saxophonist. I would put the record on when I wanted to drive customers looking for the latest Allman Brothers or Carole King album out of the store.
Even though I didn't think much of "Marzette," I eventually bought if (for all of four bits, at the employee discount) and took it home. It's been on the shelf now for forty years, pretty much unlistened to since those college days. But not long ago I was tootling around the Interwebs and I came across a copy of "Marzette" that had sold at auction for $350. Surprise!
|Ms. Waters in her ESP days.|
On relistening to "Marzette," I'm still not much impressed by Watts' playing or the record. But it does have a nice energy in places and Bobby Fews and J.C. Moses contribute much to whatever coherence the album has. Because it's so unaccountably sought after, I thought I'd post it here so that you Gems fans can decide for yourselves.
Mr. Watts, by the way, studied painting at the Sorbonne in Paris in the early sixties before hooking up with Clifford Thornton and recording his first LP for ESP in 1966. His painter's loft was a hangout for many on the avant garde's front line – Shepp, Don Cherry, Ornette, Cecil Taylor and Pharaoh Sanders among them. In 1968 he recorded "Marzette" for Savoy, at a time when the label had abandoned jazz almost completely and was concentrating on gospel music. As a result, the album sold only a handful of copies and was soon relegated to bargain bins. Like Bill Dixon, Watts later briefly taught at Weslyan in Middletown, CT, presumably in music. Watts eventually quit music altogether and concentrated on art and film making. He died on the West Coast in 1998.
So here's the Marzette Watts Ensemble as produced by Bill Dixon, in all its obscure glory. These files were taken right from the vinyl, of course, with no cleaning of the sound required. Gems has saved you a cool 350 clams!
The Marzette Watts Ensemble
Marzette Watts, ts; George Turner, cnt; Marty Cook, tbn; Frank Kipers, vln; Robert Fews, p; Juny Booth, Steve Tintweiss, Cevera Jehers, b; Tom Berge, J.C. Moses, d; Amy Shaeffer, Patty Waters, v. Bill Dixon, prod.
New York, NY; 1968; Savoy MG-12193
1. octobersong (Dixon)
2. Play It Straight (Coleman)
3. F.L.O.A.R.S.S. ((Watts)
4. Medley (Watts)
5. Lonely Woman (Coleman)
6. Joudpoo (Watts)
Find it here: https://www.mediafire.com/?0y4z5i6ddu6j6ci