By Bob McMahon
By Allison Babka
By Kelsey McClure
By Carolina de Busto
By Ben Westhoff and Sarah Purkrabek
By Steve Brennan
By Joseph Hess
By Allsion Babka
From 1990-94, alto-sax player Bobby Watson and his band, Horizon, performed frequently at the old Just Jazz venue at the Omni-Majestic and recorded a performance at the Sheldon Concert Hall in 1993 that was included as part of Watson's 1994 release Midwest Shuffle (Columbia).
There was good reason for the popularity: Watson, drummer Victor Lewis, bass player Essiet Essiet, pianist Edward Simon and trumpeter Terrell Stafford were more than just a group of excellent jazz musicians -- they were one of the best bands you'd ever have the pleasure of hearing. The musicians, who had been performing together for years, were playing at an intuitive level that seemed to push the energy and excitement higher every time they returned.
But since Watson and Horizon performed at Just Jazz in April 1994, the band hasn't been back to St. Louis. Why the long delay? When Midwest Shuffle didn't rack up sales that reached Wynton Marsalis territory, Watson and the label decided to part ways. And Watson, eager to gain a wider audience for his music, decided to move further in an electric setting, putting together a band called Urban Renewal. Watson had always blended elements of Motown R&B and Southern funk and blues into the acoustic jazz played by Horizon -- that was one of the reasons the group had such major appeal in the early '90s. But Urban Renewal just didn't click with longtime Watson and Horizon fans (and it didn't gain many nonjazz listeners either). Now Watson has reformed Horizon, and with the same great musicians in place (Melton Mustafa, who actually was a member of Horizon before Stafford, now serves as trumpeter), this return to St. Louis at the Bistro just might be one of the jazz events of the year.