Tain & the Ebonix: Folk's Songs (2007)
Folk's Songs, led by drummer Jeff "Tain" Watts and his group Tain and the Ebonix, comprises ten compositions, including seven Watts originals all dedicated to various folks. The tunes not composed by Watts are by pianists Keith Jarrett ("Rotation and "Rotation II ) and the late Kenny Kirkland ("Blasphemy ). Specific tune dedications range from other musicians such as Curtis Mayfield, Branford Marsalis, Kenny Kirkland and the late Dewey Redman to comedian Dave Chappell, artist Jean Michel Basquiat and all the citizens of Earth. The recording primarily employs the talents of Marcus Strickland on saxophones, Christian McBride on basses, and David Kikoski on piano.
Pieces of particular note are "Ling's Lope, "Laura Elizabeth, and "Blues 4 Curtis. "Ling's Lope capture's much of the musical spirit of its dedicatee, saxophonist Branford Marsalis. The tune's head sounds inspired by the music of Thelonious Monk, with an angular melodic line that includes well-placed and purposeful non-harmonic tones. Along with the wonderfully loping groove and Strickland's approach on tenor, Ling's Lope certainly brings to mind Marsalis' playing.
The beautifully playful "Laura Elizabeth, dedicated to Watts' girlfriend, features Strickland's engaging soprano saxophone and Kikoski's expressive piano work. "Blues 4 Curtis offers a good deal of variety in terms of rhythmic feel. The opening of the tune is a very groove(y) vamp associated with the sound of early 1970s Curtis Mayfield. Its opening vamp leads to a minimal head played by Strickland on tenor and David Gilmore on guitar. The groove under the saxophone/guitar head ultimately changes to a more swinging feel with a heavy backbeat on Watts' snare. Strickland's solo is backed up by yet another rhythmic feel, more akin again to early 1970's jazz/funk. After Gilmore's solo in a similar vein, the band literally swings into another feel altogether as Strickland and Gilmore return to the tune's head.
Overall Folk's Songs is an enjoyable collection of well-performed compositions. A good example of modern straight-ahead jazz, the listening experience may be more meaningful as the result of the dedications to particular individuals, as it no doubt was for Watts.
Track Listing: Samo; Rotation; Ling's Lope; Seed of Blakzilla; Laura Elizabeth; Galilee; Blues 4 Curtis; Rotation II; Same Page; Blasphemy.
Personnel: Jeff "Tain" Watts: drums, percussion; Marcus Strickland: tenor and soprano saxophone; Christian McBride: acoustic and electric bass; David Kikoski: piano; Henry Hey: keyboards (6, 7, 10); David Gilmore: guitar (7, 9); Samuel Torres: percussion (10); Juan Tainish: vocals (9).