Sunday, February 8, 2009

WATTS' SWING TONE

Normally, Jeff, I try not to make predictions. Rare instances have occurred, and I couldn’t resist. I listened to your sixth album “Watts” recently. The band you assembled cast a spell on me, and I told friends “Watts” would be number one on jazz aficionado’s best album of 2009 list. I felt that strongly about your new album. I know, we’re only two months in 2009, and there will certainly be other worthwhile jazz recordings released this year, but none that’ll measure up to the swinging captured on “Watts”.

You’ve performed with saxophonist Branford Marsalis, bassist Christian McBride, and trumpeter Terrence Blanchard many times before. You guys always seem to have loads of fun making music. “Watts” came off like a jam session not the typical everyday studio session. I must say, I had ball listening to “Watts,” and you inadvertently disproved my belief for a band to swing hard it must have pianist. I find piano-less jazz bands hard to digest.

You only used a pianist Lawrence Fields on “Owed…”. On the other selections, you and McBride shouldered the manual labor. The band swung so hard on “Return of the Jitney Man,” Dancin’ 4 Chicken,” and “The Devil’s Ring Tone” I didn’t noticed the pianist let off early.

“Watts” could’ve easily turned into an ego fest with the future Hall of Fame jazz musicians on the album, but you all didn’t waste time jockeying for the spotlight. The band was in harmony throughout. Marsalis has received accolades for his fiery work on the soprano and tenor saxophone. The saxophonist is an exceptional balladeer as well, and he showed his softer size on the ballad “Owed”.

“Katrina James” should be required listening for budding jazz musicians with aspirations of one day becoming a bandleader. The teamwork the band displayed on “Katrina James” alone would be good source material on how a band should click. I listened to “Dancin’ 4 Chickens,” and “Brekky with Drecky” with my eyes shut, imagining I was inside the studio watching the band create the music while I soaked up every note and chord change.

On “Wry Köln,” you had your hey-mom-watch-me moment. The band stepped dutifully aside, encouraging you to swing freely. You covered a lot ground, indeed. I thought you were playing three drum kits at once. Jeff, I’m going to stick with my prediction “Watts” will be the top jazz album of 20009.
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