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Jeff “Tain” Watts: Watts

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Jeff “Tain” Watts

Much like Charles Mingus before him, Jeff “Tain” Watts thinks and writes as hard as he plays. This combination of careful consideration and intense execution enables the veteran drum dynamo to make his presence felt in ways both forceful and subtle on his often audacious new album, Watts, which teams him with saxophonist Branford Marsalis, a musical campadre since their days together in Wynton Marsalis’ quintet in the early 1980s. Ace trumpeter Terence Blanchard and bass stalwart Christian McBride complete the powerhouse lineup, which performs with fire, finesse and a finely calibrated sense of improvisational ingenuity that at times borders on the near-telepathic, yet never lacks surprise.

The comparison to Mingus is more than incidental. Watts cites as a key inspiration for Watts the bass giant’s 1960 album, Charles Mingus Presents Charles Mingus, both for its visceral piano-less quartet lineup and for its namesake’s unyielding devotion to using his music as a potent force to articulate the social and political inequities and outrages of the day. Watts also shares Mingus’ ability to simultaneously salute and extend various jazz traditions in an open-ended format that encourages constant aural adventure.

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