Thursday, April 14, 2011


As a sideman, Jeff “Tain” Watts left his footprints on many outstanding jazz albums, particularly those he played on as a member of the Branford Marsalis quartet such as “Contemporary Jazz” and “Braggtown”. Watts has put out some excellent albums as well. His last, “Watts,” was my top jazz album of 2009. Tuesday, Dark Key Music drops “Family” Watts' new offering “Family”.

On “Family”, Watts plays with pianist David Kikoski, bassist James Genus and saxophonist Steve Wilson. Watts also wrote a batch of new songs. “Of August Moon,” “Jonesin’ (for Elvin),” and “Torch E-Ternal” are the songs that shows Watts’ band-mates have team spirit. They are flexible and aggressive. Wilson is Watts’ go-to-guy. Wilson is a tasteful sax player. He never grandstands. I became a fan after hearing him perform at the Detroit International Jazz Festival last year. I still breakout in a cold sweat thinking about his soloing.

On Watt’s last album, he decided not to use a pianist. This time around, Watts calls on Kikoski, and he shows he’s grateful by playing like a man happy to have a steady job in a depressed economy. Watts wrote terrific songs and his guys have a grand time playing them. Watts has a few choice moments. The one that standout the most is his prelude on a “A Wreath for John T. Smith”. He sounds as if he's playing two sets of drums as the same time.
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