Local jazz musician Doc Watkins served up the most delicious musical appetizer Thursday night inside the Pearl Brewery Stable, one that left the audience wanting more. “A Big Band Christmas featuring Watkins and his Orchestra,” served as the first official event sponsored by Jazz, TX, a permanent music club set to open at the Pearl in spring 2016. Found at Karnes and Mueller, in the basement of the Bottling House, the upscale jazz club will soon treat its guests to live music, small plates and inventive cocktails five nights a week.
“It’s going to be the best thing ever. That’s the only way I know how to put it,”Watkins said during the performance.
The musical set started with “O Tannenbaum,” before long-time San Antonio singer Kyle Keener sang classics like “These are a Few of My Favorite Things.” “Hark! the Herald Angels Sing” and “Sleigh Ride” got people up and dancing. Drummer Brandon Guerra displayed his skill during “A Few of My Favorite Things.” While many drum solos travel down the path of self-indulgence, Guerra’s solo was a masterful display for the audience’s enjoyment.
Watkins occasionally leaned over the piano like the Peanuts character “Schroeder”. “Charlie Brown’s Puerto Rican Christmas” was a crowd favorite. This collaboration between Watkins and trumpeter Adrian Ruiz mixed melodies from the animated feature with a Puerto Rican montuno groove.
“The trumpet and trombone solo made me wish I could dance salsa and get out there and participate!” said audience member Jennifer Smith.
A stripped down version of “O Holy Night” featured an honest and forceful performance by soloist and New Orleans transplant Pierre Poree. Overall, the music was accessible and warm without being dumbed down.
Watkins lingered after the show to catch up with fans—many of whom first met him years ago during his regular gigs at Bohanan’s on the River Walk.
Audience member Desiree Van Loon, who recently moved back to San Antonio, was amazed by the city’s transformation in the few years she had been away.
“I can’t wait to see what they do in their own venue; we are excited for that,” Van Loon said of Watkins and his orchestra. “We are falling in love with this city again. It is a very exciting time in San Antonio.”
*Top Image: Doc Watkins slides down the keys. Photo by Rachel Chaney.