A Balance of Light – Mark Kleinhaut Trio with Bobby Watson

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  1. Ferdinand and Isabelle 7:02
  2. Long Look Back 9:07
  3. Four Lane Clover 9.07
  4. South of Mason 8:07
  5. Field of Greens 5:41
  6. Start it Up 10:12
  7. Erikita 11:07
  8. Summers 7:56
  • Bobby Watson, alto saxophone
  • Mark Kleinhaut, guitar
  • Jimmy Lyden, bass
  • Les Harris, Jr., drums

All compositions by Mark Kleinhaut
All Rights Reserved, © (P) 2003 BMI

…a unique voice…a welcome and refreshing find indeed!”

-Ernie Pugliese, JazzImprov Magazine

“…genre-destroying, unflinchingly original music.”

– C. Michael Bailey, allaboutjazz.com

A Balance of Light (Invisible Music, November 18, 2003) is an album with the depth and virtuosity to satisfy the most seasoned jazz aficionado, and the extraordinary beauty, warmth and melodicism that is equally inviting to the jazz newcomer. This fourth release by guitarist/composer, Mark Kleinhaut, features Jim Lyden (bass), Les Harris, Jr. (drums), and legendary alto saxophonist, Bobby Watson.

Kleinhaut composed the music on A Balance of Light especially for this collaboration with Bobby Watson. Anticipating the blending of his trio’s cohesive agility with Watson’s fiery individualism, Kleinhaut laid out eight unique roadmaps for the group’s extemporaneous journey. From the joyful Latin vibe of the opening track “Ferdinand and Isabelle” to the yearning romanticism of “Erikita,” the Monkish playfulness of “Field of Greens,” scorching hard bop “Start it Up” and odd-meter country-meets-avant guard of “Summers,” Kleinhaut’s new compositions are each unique gems that launch the quartet into wondrous realms of exploration. Tying it all together is the empathy and virtuosity the musicians bring to these proceedings – breathing life and light into the compositions with exquisite detail, communication borne of in-the-moment interaction and heated inspiration.

Excerpts from the liner notes:

A little over a year ago I came across Bobby’s website (www.bobbywatson.com) and read about his career. It got me thinking about the first time I heard him. It was 1979, I was fresh out of college and my quartet was opening for the great Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers. Bobby and all of the Messengers were absolutely killing, and I remembered thinking at that time that maybe someday I would have a chance to play with those guys.

I contacted Bobby (better late than never) to see if he would perform with my group at the 2002 Key Maine Jazz Festival and I sent him my CD, “Chasing Tales”. In a few weeks, Bobby emailed back to say he would do the gig and that he was really digging the CD, especially how the compositions fit Tiger Okoshi’s trumpet playing and how the arrangements integrated him into our group. Bobby said he too would like to find this connection with us, and asked if I would write new tunes for this project with him in mind.

It soon started to sink in that I had agreed to write tunes “for” Bobby Watson, an impressive composer with renowned work in almost every subgenre of jazz-the bar suddenly looked a lot higher. What could I write that Bobby would want to play? Over the next couple of months I poured through every Bobby Watson recording I could get my hands on and rediscovered his unique sound. As I rotated discs, I heard Bobby move easily from hard bop to free jazz, to big band, Latin grooves and romantic ballads, but constant throughout this wide-ranged territory was Bobby’s ever-optimistic musical voice. He was authentic and assured, and never compromised his individuality to suit a particular genre.

As I worked to compose the music for this project, I kept coming back to thinking about Bobby’s positive presence until finally I realized that the style of the tunes wouldn’t really matter, as long as they provided the starting points for our dialog. Song forms and chord progressions became secondary to setting the stage for what would become our songs within the songs, and I imagined the lofty conversations we would have, whether to dwell on the hopeless isolation of the human condition, or to affirm that our lives are more than just a short ride on a cold, dark rock. Deep in the farthest recesses of our consciousness there is a kernel of something-call it hope. With Bobby, it struck me as A Balance of Light, illuminated through music.

-Mark Kleinhaut, 5/25/03


Bobby Watson rose to international prominence with Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers in 1977, was named Jazz Musician of the Year (1990) in DownBeat Critics Polls and was four times named #1 Alto Sax in DownBeat Critics Polls (1989 – 1992). Covering a wide range of styles, Watson has co-led groups with Curtis Lundy and played with the George Coleman Octet, Charlie Persip’s big band, Louis Hayes, Sam Rivers, Dameronia, the 29th Street Saxophone Quartet, and the Savoy Sultans. In the late 80’s and early 90’s, Watson headed a hard bop quintet known as Horizon and helped launch the careers of a number of younger players such as Christian McBride, Terrell Stafford, Robin Eubanks, Frank Lacy and Roy Hargrove. At 50, Watson’s career has already produced 25 CDs as a leader and sideman appearances on well over 100 others. www.bobbywatson.com

Jim Lyden is one of the first call bassists for jazz in southern Maine. Jim has performed as a sideman with John LaPorta, Roswell Rudd, Herb Pomeroy, Frank Foster, and many others. He has performed with the trombone septet “The Maine Bones,” a western swing band “The Pinetones,” as well as an Afro-Cuban ensemble and summer theater musicals.

Drummer Les Harris Jr. has performed and toured with musicians ranging from the jazz vocal group “The Ritz” (1983-1995), Tommy Gallant’s Trio, the Artie Shaw Orchestra (under the direction of Dick Johnson), Scott Hamilton, Diana Krall, Cheryl Bentyne, Janis Seigel and Laurel Masse’ of The Manhattan Transfer, Clark Terry, Milt Jackson, Phil Woods, Art Farmer, Annie Ross, Teddy Wilson, Hank Jones, Milt Hinton, Ray Brown, Marian McPartland, Jimmy Heath and Charlie Mariano, among others.