Blue Vol 1 Jeff “Tain” Watts Dark Key Music
These nine tracks feature groups of varying size and instrumentation led by US drummer Jeff “Tain” Watts and recorded in the drummer’s home state, Pennsylvania. Best known for his 24-year association, until 2009, with the Branford Marsalis Quartet, Watts has played with top names including Michael Brecker, Wynton Marsalis and McCoy Tyner. Watts writes most of the material for the recordings on his label, Dark Key Music, and has penned six tracks here. One of the exceptions is Thelonious Monk’s Brilliant Corners, arranged by Watts for a quartet with saxophonist Troy Roberts, pianist David Budway and bassist Neal Caine. Beginning with a heavy backbeat, it slides into a slow, bluesy phase, with smart tenor work from Roberts and alternating tempos for his thoughtfully swinging phrases, giving way to robust piano sequences and Watts’s energising rhythms. Farley Strange brings on an octet plus seven vocalists, including Watts’s wife Laura. This mix of voices mentions gumbo — the New Orleans dish and music — before launching a version of the latter with tuba, vocal choruses, solos and a driving beat from Watts. The closer reverts to the opening quartet for another Watts composition, Reverie, a slow ballad with lyrical work from Roberts’s tenor, pensive piano, and Watts working the brushes to great effect.