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Jeff “Tain” Watts: Blue, Vol. 1

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Modern jazz rarely gets as flat-out eclectic as it does on this latest Jeff “Tain” Watts offering. The opening “Brilliant Corners” is one of the most confident, strutting takes on Monk you’ll hear, Watts’ kit powering the track with impressive snap and pop, a de facto rhythmic conductor. Sections surge, tempos double, and even a master of perpetual wending like Monk would have to cede this as a logical extension of his complex logic.

“Farley Strange” marries a vocal about gumbo with a thick electronic sheen, a sort of Creole-vibe crossed with a sensibility out of mid-period Radiohead. “Diva Man” has a gravelly vocal from Ku-umba Frank Lacy suggestive of Blind Willie Johnson, which dovetails nicely with the following “Blues for Mr. Charley,” a classic pre-dawn, post-booze construct that commences with a souped-up dirge figure that transitions to Mobley-esque swing courtesy of Troy Roberts’ tenor work.

The beats here are large, and Watts, as ever, stuns with his drum work, but there are calligraphic touches too, as with the racing synth lines in “May 15, 2011,” inky sonic traceries that provide hue, contrast and balance to what might have been an otherwise cluttered soundscape. “Flip & Dip,” meanwhile, has a drum solo that does just that, a composition unto itself housed.

Originally Published