This is the fifth solo album for Jeff "Tain" Watts and broadens his approach on this effort. The drummer has the distinction of reporting that he appeared on every Grammy-Award winning album by Wynton and Branford Marsalis. Originally from Pittsburgh and graduating with a degree in classical percussion from Desquesne University and the Berklee College of Music, Watts has become a well-known face from his appearances with the groups of Wynton Marsalis, Branford Marsalis and the NBC Tonight Show Orchestra, as well as films by Spike Lee and as the leader of his own groups.
Watts, it seems, is more interested in making much more contemporary statements beginning with the title of the group. Was it really necessary to tab this ensemble with a rather awkward Tain & The Ebonix when we all know and respect him for his own name? Some of the music falls out just where you'd expect it to be. "Ling's Lope," an aptly named mid-tempo composition, is a highlight of the album with Branford Marsalis in mind via a well-placed and played tenor solo by Marcus Strickland. The balladic "Laura Elizabeth" and "Galilee" are also commendable. Most of the pieces are composed to honor other jazzmen, including the groove-oriented "Blues 4 Curtis" (Curtis Mayfield) and "Blasphemy," dedicated to the late pianist Kenny Kirkland. Keith Jarrett's "Rotation" is also heard.
The album is not, however, without its weaknesses. Guitarist David Gilmore's guitar is heard on both "Blues 4 Curtis" and "Same Page...," where appears more interested in plying a rock-oriented cold metal approach. The appearance of vocalist Juan Tainish on "Same Page..." is an unnecessary addition to the album and sounds suspiciously like Watts himself. Is this a throwback to Branford Marsalis' Buckshot LaFonque (Columbia, 1994), in which he appeared in a totally different context from his own albums of the period? Ah well, maybe it will keep some happy.
Samo; Rotation; Ling's Lope; Seed of Blackzilla; Laura Elizabeth; Galilee; Blues 4 Curtis; Rotation II; Same Page
Jeff "Tain" Watts: drums, percussion; Marcus Strickland: tenor and soprano sax; Christian McBride: acoustic and electric bass; David Kikoski: piano; Juan Tanish: vocals (9); David Gilmore: guitar (7, 9); Henry Hey: keyboards (6, 7, 10); Samuel Torres: percussion (10).