The turning point in drummer Jeff “Tain” Watts’ latest CD comes about 26 minutes in, right between the powerhouse “Seed of Blakzilla” and the ballad “Laura Elizabeth.” In the first four tracks, Watts’ loaded quartet turns out a string of dazzling postbop gems. The opening “Samo” is a study in opposing forces, with saxophonist Marcus Strickland spinning in ever-denser circles while the leader pulls outward in all directions. “Rotation,” a Keith Jarrett composition, tilts atop a staccato pile of rhythmic fragments, yet shows such cohesion that the entire band seems to be an extension of the drum kit. “Ling’s Lope” is a relaxed, bluesy twist on Thelonious Monk’s “Played Twice,” an old-school stroll with classy solos from pianist David Kikoski and bassist Christian McBride. And “Blakzilla” is as in-your-face as its title, with Watts’ drums piling it on in a juggernaut of forward motion.
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