Jeff "Tain" Watts

Citizen Tain

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Anyone who's been listening to modern jazz has been aware of Jeff "Tain" Watts ever since the classic Wynton Marsalis quintet of the mid-'80s. The general public was introduced to him through his stint on Jay Leno's The Tonight Show -- a profitable excursion that nevertheless meant there was an eight-year gap between his debut, Megawatts, and its 1999 successor, Citizen Tain. It was worth the wait, however. Watts scored an enormous coup by reuniting Wynton and Branford Marsalis for the first time in a decade, and he surrounded them with excellent musicians -- their trombonist brother Delfeayo Marsalis, alto saxophonist Kenny Garrett, bassist Reginald Veal, and pianist Kenny Kirkland, in what sadly turned out to be one of his final sessions. At least he exited on a high note -- Citizen Tain is a dynamic collection of straight-ahead hard bop and a number of its variations, from adventurous post-bop to grooving Latin jazz. As a matter of fact, this touches on a greater variety of material than the classic Marsalis group, and at times, it sounds even livelier. Kudos to all the musicians, of course, but special credit has to be given Watts, who proves that he's one of the rare drummers that can lead with confidence.

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