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Jeff "Tain" Watts Family Reunion Band at the Jazz Standard

Tomas Pena By
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Jeff "Tain" Watts Family Reunion Band
Jazz Standard
New York, NY
January 23, 2014

Sigmund Freud would have had a field day with Jeff "Tain" Watts' compositions. Case in point: "The Devil's Ringtone," where Watts conjures up an imaginary conversation between Satan and a corrupt politician. The tune features Paul Bollenback, whose electric guitar eerily captures the pleas of the politician, and Frank Lacey, whose growling trombone captures Satan's devilish reply. The tune gives the listener a glimpse into the rich internal life of Watts, who says he likes to give the audience "something to think about," and succeeds (check out the album, Watts (Tainish Chamber Music, 2009) and the tune "Devil's Ringtone: the Movie" for the identity of the politician).

Live at the Jazz Standard, Watts reminded me of a kid in a candy store as he put the Watts Family Reunion Band through its paces. He's a storyteller with a cinematic sense, who draws his inspiration from life and his over-the-top imagination. "Return of the Jitney Man" is an ode to his father who drove a jitney (illegal) cab on weekends to earn extra money, and "The Impaler" alludes to the Prince of Darkness and combines straight-ahead jazz with Afro Cuban rhythms. These and other tunes set the stage for some memorable musical moments: Yosvany Terry's soulful invocation, a jaw- dropping musical exchange between Ravi Coltrane and Terry, and great solo work by trombonists Conrad Herwig and Robin Eubanks, trumpeter Lew Soloff, clarinetist Don Byron and pianist David Budway.

The Watts Family Reunion band is a 17-piece, star-studded powerhouse with the ability to turn on a dime and shape-shift as the situation demands. It's also a great vehicle for Watts to exorcise his demons, frolic and test the limits of his imagination, which he does with aplomb and glee.

The Watts Family Reunion Band is: Jeff "Tain" Watts—drums, compositions; Lew Soloff—trumpet; Alex Sipiagin—trumpet; Kenyatta Beasley— trumpet; Laura Kahle—trumpet; Yosvany Terry—alto saxophone; Jacam Manricks—alto saxophone, piccolo, alto flute; Ravi Coltrane—tenor saxophone, Don Byron—E-flat clarinet, tenor saxophone, bass clarinet; Claire Daly— baritone saxophone, flute; Conrad Herwig —trombone; Robin Eubanks—trombone; David Budway, piano; Paul Bollenback—guitar; Chris Smith—bass.

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