Jeff "Tain" Watts: Moods and Melodies of a Drummer
It was to the point that among the jazz cognoscenti of the area, I became kind of a local. So when jazz guys from New York would play in Los Angeles, people would talk to me like I didn't even know these people. They would say, "You really gotta see this. Have you ever heard this guy?" I was like, "Yeah. He's one of my best friends." "Yeah, but you gotta go see him." I was like an alien in jazz. It was really bizarre.
That experience made me start writing, out of frustration. So I started to write. Whenever certain guys would some in town, I'd rent studio time and we'd go and record some of my music, so that I'd feel like I was working on something when I lived there. I definitely learned some things about myself, being out there. Cause I was left with not much else.
AAJ: From there, you've been with various people through now.
JW: Yeah. Michael Brecker.
AAJ: Are you happy with the way your career has gone? Things have been steady. The music has been quality and it seems successful.
JW: It feels pretty successful to me. I could be flipping burgers It's very cool. I've had a great time. If I choose to, I can just play with people that I love to play with and also my good friends, which comes in handy when you're traveling. I'm very fortunate.
AAJ: Are you pushing more to get your own thing out there, or more as a sideman?
JW: A mixture of things. I think that if I can just consistently have the opportunity to work with my group for like a third of the time, or maybe half of the time, certain years, depending on the project, whatever the project needs, as far myself promoting it and playing that music. If I can have that type of thing where I can spend that much time of the year. It's about being able to present how I feel and bounce that off of people and then go back and make more music.
I read something a couple of years ago where Dave Holland speaks about the whole process of writing music for records, rehearsing it, recording it, and then going out and performing said music. Then ultimately, that's when you really find out what you can and should play on the composition. That information, that stuff, it forms future compositions, and it just goes around in a circle. You find out what to play on it, you play it in front of people, and you learn little things about pacing and presentation of the tune that influences what you write in the future. I'm looking forward to feeling that artistic cycle.
AAJ: What are you doing this summer?
JW: I have a few things with Branford, but I'm really just trying listen to musicians and make sure I have a certain amount of musicians available to make the music for my projects sound right. I'll just be writing some new things. I have other new things to present. Just dealing with that conceptually. Stuff like that. I want to become stronger as an artist. People will be coming to see me, so I want to sound better.
Cees van de Ven