A lot of water has flowed under Jeff "Tain Watts musical bridge since he came into prominence as the drummer in Wynton Marsalis' band. Watts has gone on to extend his musical circle playing in varied settings and by leading his own groups. This time around he has a new band in Ebonix, with saxophonist Marcus Strickland, bassist Christian McBride and pianist David Kikoski.
Watts wrote most of the music. He has Keith Jarrett in the mix, as well as a tune by Strickland. Watts shows his impressionistic side with the lyrical "Laura Elizabeth. Stirckland investigates the melody on soprano, gently fleshing the melody and then leaving it open for Kikoski's graceful improvisation, who shoots into high gear before he lets the final note fall.
Watts lays a punchy rhythm for the funky "Blues 4 Curtis. He works in tandem with Strickland and keyboardist Henry Hey before Strickland takes over, blowing up a storm on tenor. He is an exciting and inventive player, on the edge but never slipping over the precipice. The final impetus comes from David Gilmore, his guitar singing the blues with volatile energy.
Jarrett's "Rotation gets an odd-metered reading from Strickland on tenor before he settles into the melody, with Watts laying down a thick beat. In the other incarnation, "Rotation II, McBride gets to feed the melody with some bowing accompanied by , whose runs are transparent and lithe with Watts keeping the cool through his accents on the cymbals.
The CD makes for some pretty good listening, but "Same Page... turns out to be quite out of character, with the heavy metal approach primed by Gilmore and the unappetizing vocals of Juan Tainish.
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 saxophone; Christian McBride: acoustic and electric bass; David Kikoski: piano; Henry Key: keyboards (6, 7, 10); David Gilmore: guitar (7, 9); Samuel Torres: percussion (10); Juan Tainish: vocals (9).