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Jeff “Tain” Watts: Bar Talk

Jeff “Tain” Watts has brought so much ebullient forward momentum with his joi de swing to so many bands, most notably the original Wynton Marsalis Quintet and similarly incendiary outfits led by Branford Marsalis and Michael Brecker, that his own propulsive projects as a leader naturally pique interest. On this follow-up to 1999’s Citizen Tain, the seething swingmeister unleashes his trademark polyrhythmic thrust in the company of regular band members like pianist David Budway, guitarist Paul Bollenback and bassist James Genus along with special guest saxophonists Ravi Coltrane, Branford and Brecker, pianist and frequent collaborator Joey Calderazzo, guitarist Hiram Bullock and harmonica ace Gregoire Maret. And the results are often scintillating.

Bar Talk has Tain contributing eight of the album’s 10 compositions, each one a thoughtful expression that runs the rhythmic gamut from solid backbeat to subtle coloration to scintillating swing. The jovial opener, “JC Is the Man,” is a buoyant swinger, featuring some strong contributions from Coltrane, that represents Watts’ good-natured sense of humor. Marsalis’ tenor is highlighted on “Vodville,” a scorching quartet number that varies tempos a la Mingus without sacrificing on its swing factor one iota. He blows heroically throughout this narrative piece that chronicles one man’s cycle from drunkenness to enlightenment and back again. Budway, a stellar and vastly underrated pianist, distinguishes himself with a daring, inventive solo before Watts erupts in some polyrhythmic abandon on his own spotlight.

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