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Old-school jazz lions take the stage for Masten festival

The Masten Jazz Festival is free and free-wheeling – and in full swing.

The 20th incarnation of this Buffalo tradition winds up Sunday with the quartet led by bassist Curtis Lundy and saxophonist Bobby Watson. Lundy, who appeared at last year’s festival, is back by popular demand. Watson’s appearance is a rarity for Buffalo. He used to play the old Artpark Jazz Festival, to great acclaim.

Now 61, Watson has more than 20 albums to his name, and his suave saxophone playing can be heard on about 100 more. His artistry reflects his background. He cut his teeth as a member of Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers, and he has performed with the likes of Joe Williams, Lou Rawls and Betty Carter. Lundy, too, has those old-school credentials. Like Watson, he performed with Betty Carter, a singer who was known for putting musicians through their paces. He is also known for his involvement with the musical “Ain’t Misbehavin’ ” and for his work with drummer Max Roach.

Together, Watson and Lundy have been known to bring the house down. With their group Horizon, formed with drummer Victor Lewis, they recorded for Blue Note and Columbia. They were what Jeff Simon called “the unqualified smash hit” of the 1992 Artpark Jazz Festival. A year later, they stunned a crowd at Artpark-at-the-Church.

“Music’s not like sports,” Watson, then 39, said on that occasion. He explained: “The older we get, the better we get.”

He must be spectacular now.

The 2015 Masten Jazz Festival honors the late James “Pappy” Martin, longtime supporter of jazz in Buffalo, and a member of one of Buffalo’s first families of jazz. Local bands will round out the lineup.

The music begins at 3 p.m. and is expected to last until 8 p.m. on the side lawn of the Buffalo Museum of Science, 1020 Humboldt Parkway, in Martin Luther King Park. Lawn chairs are suggested.


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