Jeff “Tain” Watts
I actually don’t mind admitting I’m wrong. In fact, sometimes I think my own words can be quite tasty, and I eat them with relish (or horseradish). In the case of Bar Talk, I have pulled up to the table and have my bib on. See, I’m in my third decade of dogging the Young Lions, that promising group of young jazz musicians led by the Marsalises who took the music world by storm in the early ’80s. I was one among the legion of doubters who believed these cats received praise from the desperate jazz heads who were seeing their legends drop faster than the Stock Exchange in ’29. It was the Lions’ undying devotion to bop that the fans adored — and I detested — because it had all been done before.
Yes, the music on Bar Talk has all been done before. Folks have been bopping for damned near 60 years now. And I still believe that jazz could use more forward thinkers like Medeski and Truffaz. However, the music on here could hardly be done any better. Watts’ drumming simply explodes from your speakers like a cluster bomb, leaving you devastated. When he unites with Branford and Michael Brecker on “Mr. J,” you go blind in ecstasy. A critical mass scorched earth blast. Whether it’s pyrotechnics or laying down phat grooves (like on “JC is the Man”), “Tain” shows that he is jazz’s best drummer operating today. Like Philippe Garcia or Billy Higgins, you wonder just how many hands this brother has. Ravi Coltrane, David Budway, James Genus, Paul Bollenback, Gregoire Maret (who really wants to be Stevie on the harmonica), Hiram Bullock, Robert Thomas, Jr., and Joey Calderazzo all appear on this stellar album, and, even though there are some dull, “Smooth Jazz Flavor”-ish moments (like “Side B” and “Stevie In Rio”), this project, on the whole, shines as bright as its nova of a band leader.
Columbia Records: http://www.columbiarecords.com