Sunday 17 March 2024

'The Way Back From Here' by Andy Watts

'The Way Back From Here' - it's such an evocative title conjuring up a variety of thoughts and motivations for each of us.  For trumpeter Andy Watts, his way back emanates from the bleakest of circumstances which happens to be a shared experience for each of in the not soon forgotten quarantine period.

Certainly a cannon event for each and every one of us, the time in isolation are effects that we all still deal with even today with a complete reinvention of everything we deemed routine, mundane... normal.

The impact on the music industry, again, was much publicised with artists unable to tour and collaborate via the usual methods, many artists had to reinvent how they did things, how they collaborated and how they continued to remain present to their audiences.  Being locked away with nothing to do ultimately afforded Watts a luxury of sorts in time.  An invaluable currency and time well-spent with the New Zealander reconnecting with the trumpet and recontextualising his whole approach to the instrument.  The result comes in the form of 'The Way Back From Here' - an innovative and inspired release that takes Watts' music into previously unexplored realms.

For the past fifteen years, Watts has perhaps become best known as a key contributor to the London Afrobeat Collective - currently celebrating the release of their fourth studio album, 'Esengo', the spirited, high-energy ensemble have cultivated a reputation as ferocious live performers with a dynamic "anything goes" approach to their music.  Despite their sound rooted in afrobeat, the eight-person collective still embrace the freedom to explore other genres and styles, much like Watts strives for throughout 'The Way Back From Here'.

With assistance throughout from drummer Filippo Galli, Watts' composition and production navigate bold soundscapes that elegantly - and confidently - fuse elements of jazz with afrobeat and, at times, slightly darker tones of electronica like the trip-hop-esque 'Out of Season'.  Further assistance comes in the form of guitarist Joe Edwards who guests on the rousing album opener 'A Strange Beginning' and London Afrobeat Collective percussionist, Richie Sweet, who adds a vibrant dimension to the resplendent title track.

'The Way Back From Here' weaves through Andy Watts' narrative of music which sees him confronting the period as a time of uncertainty and difficulty but ultimately coming through the other end with renewed focus, hope... and a fairly excellent album as well.

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