Propelling his modern mainstream ensemble with clarity, through rigorous action, drummer Jeff "Tain" Watts combines free form humor with swinging rhythms. Complex patterns mingle with delicate waves of motion. For his second Columbia recording as a leader, Watts returns to the studio with a familiar band. As a result of his firm leadership and thoughtful planning, they've brewed up a storm.
Born January 20, 1960 in Pittsburgh, Watts majored in classical percussion at Duquesne University's School of Music. It wasn't until his enrollment at the Berklee School of Music in Boston, however, that the percussionist began to take jazz in full stride. With the Wynton Marsalis Quintet until 1988 and then the Branford Marsalis Quartet and the Tonight Show, Watts focused his supportive role tastefully. Studio sessions have brought out the best in his play. Through it all, one can always appreciate the pulsating drum kit textures and Watts' lyrical accompaniment.
His is not an album of repeated and glaring drum solos. Watts leads from within. Ravi Coltrane, Paul Bollenback and Gregoire Maret, who play significant roles, push the mainstream envelope forward. When Michael Brecker and Branford Marsalis get together on "Mr. JJ," the scene is wild with post-bop tension. At just about 10 minutes, the track is typical of the leader's musical ideas that show up here. He's allocated a lot of time for individual stretching as well as for ensemble spirit. Watts is careful to balance his session with lovely ballads. Aside from originals, there's one by the band's pianist, David Budway, as well as a beautiful tone poem by Kenny Kirkland.
Track Listing: JC Is The Man (part 1); Vodville; Stevie In Rio; Mr. JJ; Side B; Kiss; JC Is The Man (part 2); Laughin' & Talkin' (with Higg); Tonality of Atonement; Like the Rose.
Personnel: Jeff "Tain" Watts: drums; Branford Marsalis: tenor saxophone, country horn on "Side B," soprano saxophone on "Tonality of Atonement"; Ravi Coltrane: tenor saxophone, soprano saxophone on "Kiss"; Michael Brecker: tenor saxophone; Joey Calderazzo: piano; David Budway: piano, keyboards; Henry Hey: keyboards; James Genus: bass; Eric Revis: bass; Paul Bollenback: guitar; Gregoire Maret: harmonica; Robert Thomas, Jr.: percussion; Hiram Bullock: guitar on "Side B"; Juan Tainish: vocals on "Like the Rose."