Whilst double-stepping the six blocks between West 4th Street and the Village Vanguard-drummer Nasheet Waits is hitting there with pianist Jason Moran’s New Directions-my mind began to trip on the latest batch of jazz legend progeny-Anthony Wilson, Ravi Coltrane, Graham Haynes. Will they be able to transcend legions of skeptical critics and curmudgeonly fans and get their props, and why the fuck should they have to deal with that as well as paying traditional dues anyway? This hackneyed soliloquy was left hanging in the humid ether of Seventh Avenue South as I descended into the cool dimness of the basement mecca. Still, as I watched Waits purposely settle in-tweaking cymbals; adjusting seat; checking pedals; blessing his toms and snare with sticks, mallets and brushes-three hoary clichés nagged my membrane like a Diana Ross chorus: He’s a chip off the old block; He’s his father’s son; The apple don’t fall too far from the tree.
A resident of the Max Roach side of the tracks (at the corner of Billy Higgins and Tony Williams), Freddie Waits was an economical, stylistically versatile, rhythmically subtle drummer. You know the kind of selfless player that gets perpetually slept on by everyone but the major cats who jam/record/tour with him or her. Senior Waits’ tasty, no-frills style (ride cymbal setting, modulating and shifting the pulse, bass drum shadowing the bass fiddle, crisp snare drum just behind the beat, random bursts of crash/toms) and Swiss precise timekeeping made him the consummate Blue Note team “vibes” man; the catalytic ghost in the machine. I only saw Freddie live once, with Max’s M’Boom, but if you’ve heard his sides with Andrew Hill or Grant Green then you feelin’ me.