New York-based jazz musician Jas Walton, who’s played with Kronos Quartet and The Roots among others, recently recorded Face the Facts: Words by Alan Watts, a four-song recording of the British philosopher’s words, as preserved through his son Mark’s recordings, set to Walton’s jazzy beats.
Over the years, Mark Watts recorded hundreds of hours of his father’s presentations with his trusty old school tape deck. He parsed those down to the nuts and bolts, remastered them and created “The Essential Alan Watts” series in the mid-1990s. Ten years later Walton discovered the recordings and become consumed.
“I listened to them on the train every day for months—I’d be underground on the subway, totally lost in that world.
Alan Watts is so good at condensing these mysterious cosmic questions into manageable ideas; it’s just the most reasonable thing I’ve ever heard. He talks with such a great cadence and natural rhythm, and that was what stood out to me the most.
One day on a whim, while experimenting with making chord progression loops at home in Brooklyn, I just decided to drop Watts’ voice in and see how it matched up rhythmically.”
The first time I listened to the synth-filled title track, I felt as though the two were almost at odds, with the music distracting me from the words. But it turned out to be a playful duet; in the end it worked.
Released on vinyl last month to celebrate Watts’ 100th birthday, it’s the debut release for label Figure & Ground and will also have a digital version available. You can listen to samples here, and pre-order as well. Which I’m going to do right now.