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June 2004

Jeff "Tain" Watts
Megawatts
Sunnyside

This excellent trio date from the early '90s sounds just as vibrant and enticing some 13 years later. Drummer Jeff "Tain" Watts initially planned to issue Megawatts as his debut disc, but his efforts were sabotaged by label politics. Sadly, it took so long to get this out that superb pianist Kenny Kirkland's no longer around to see it happen. Those who need additional reaffirmation of what a loss Kirkland's passing constitutes should closely examine his melodic elaboration, facility and phrasing on the date's three cover numbers: Wayne Shorter's "Black Nile," Keith Jarrett's "Rainbow" and the Arthur Schwartz/Howard Dietz standard "You and the Night and the Music." Kirkland's flourishes and playing on that song in particular are both enjoyable and a bit intimidating for all the lapsed pianists out there like myself. His sense of time, swing, easy rhythmic flamboyance and overall amazing approach and abilities are made even more awesome because he sounds so relaxed and spontaneous throughout each solo.

Unlike many piano-bass-drums sessions that are clearly and completely dominated from the keyboard, this was a fully collaborative effort. Bassist Charles Fambrough wrote four of the disc's nine selections, offering his best solo on "Opal Rose" and easily moving back and forth between supportive and spotlight roles with Watts, who sparkles whether doing splintering solos, opening and concluding pieces or interacting within the arrangement. His two songs are the short, brisk workout "The Impaler" and less intense, more lyrical "Dance of the Niblets," although it includes a middle section fueled by a strong dialog between Fambrough and Watts, while Kirkland weaves in and out of the setting before steering the piece back to the head.

Thankfully, time hasn't diminished the quality or value of this topflight session. Indeed, coming at a time when major label interest in anything except vocalists is quite low, hearing Megawatts proves quite welcome.

Originally published in June 2004
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