Drummer Brian Watson supposedly launched the Watts Ensemble on a dare, waging whether he could not only write cohesive music for 10 or so players, but to also recruit and retain them. In a city as diverse as L.A., Watson knew they were out there, but the real challenge was where to find them. Months of Craigslist ads (seeking those mutually interested in Stravinsky, Devo and the Coltranes), friend-to-friend references and music store leads steadily built an amalgamated mutt of an outfit, but a smart and sassy one too, and tight as a drum – even though, at times, the Charles Mingus influence is overshadowing. Mostly it’s a blast to see and hear a live, knowledgeable ensemble like this on stage. At times the sounds are low – meandering flutes and winds, soothing-to-nonexistent strings, and just one waning refrain the only connection to the larger piece of work. Then, just like that, the bottom and bass rattle back in, motivated by Mingus’ Pithecanthropus Erectus stumble and inspired by the cinematic hues of Taxi Driver’s nighttime drives.
-Wendy Gilmartin, LA WEEKLY