Jeff "Tain" Watts


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As a leader, drummer Jeff Watts is a "what you hear is what you get" kind of jazzman. The powerful, bombastic post-Elvin Jones cum Tony Williams rhythm pound outs and hard driving swing or funk beats set the ever amazing Watts apart from any other drummer. That he also surrounds himself with the best talent, in this case bassist Christian McBride, trumpeter Terence Blanchard, and saxophonist Branford Maralis is also not surprising. As composer of all his material on this CD, Watts is more interesting in the mainstream of jazz simply because of the titles of the selections, adopting street cred with occasional humorous sensibilities that take his music to an extreme. This is, when executed, post, neo-bop and contemporary jazz at its best, the musicianship at a lofty plateau, but at times is goofy to the point of being silly. The CD comes out of the gate roaring, as the spiky ramblings and rumblings bust out on the jam "Return of the Jitney Man," with Blanchard chattering and Marsalis wailing. "Brekky with Drekky" might be a bluesy, easy swinging tribute to Michael Brecker, but is closer to Sonny Rollins. There's no messing around on the stretched 11/8 funky beat of "Katrina James," the soprano of Marsalis -- he's massively underrated on that instrument -- is sweetly refined on the contemporary semi-ballad "Owed...," while Blanchard's old-time vintage chops come out on the basic "Dingle-Dangle." "Dancin' 4 Chicken" is an old dirty bird blues turned into a fast jive bop shuffle, and a drum solo is the prelude for "Wry Koln" which sounds cleverly borrowed from Ornette Coleman. The last three pieces degenerate into inane tomfoolery, as "Devil's Ring Tone: The Movie" centers around an answering machine, followed by a drum solo, then an instrumental reprieve of "The Devil's Ring Tone" that starts with blank null silence, then goes to a loose and uninspired coda that seems like filler. This band is exceptional, and need not resort to parlor tricks of any kind. There's some prodigious music here in the main, and that part of the recording deserves the highest of praise, despite the marginal comedic missteps that follow.

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