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Drummer Jeff Watts will always be known as the logical successor to Tony Williams, for his powerhouse style and full-force, rocket-fueled rhythmic propulsion cannot help but push every band he plays with to their upper level of voraciousness. When in a leadership role, Watts is not so much the destroyer of everything in front of him as much as a coalescing factor in bringing a band closer to his personalized energy laden concept. Of course, the musicians he chooses have to be able to keep up, and in the case of pianist David Kikoski and bassist Christian McBride, they are more than ready for the task. Rising star saxophonist Marcus Strickland was chosen with a distinct purpose in mind, as he brings along many modern jazz styles and sounds to the table, an invaluable commodity for any young musician, and an aspect more seasoned players wish they could command. Dubbed Tain & the Ebonix, the quartet on Folk's Songs play alternately funky, pile driving, or progressive modal music, as the subtleties are left for another day. But the group avoids overstating the obvious, choosing to stretch familiar themes just outward enough to maintain a compelling persona, avoiding the copy cat approach of their less talented peers. Make no mistake - this recording is made by utter virtuosos who emphasize immediacy, continually kick ass, take no prisoners, and never, ever look back. There is a reference to the famous Keith Jarrett quartet of the mid-'70s that featured Dewey Redman, as Strickland evokes his spirit during two takes of "Rotation," moving easily from free no-time jamming to funk-blues inferences and hard bop. Contrasts abound, whether on the hilarious and goofy intro, to introspective, simple love song of "Laura Elizabeth," the dark waltz "Galilee" with Kikoski's lengthy piano intro merging with the hymnal organ of Henry Hey and Strickland's John Coltrane styled soprano sax, and the 6/8 Afro-Cuban composition of Kenny Kirkland "Blasphemy," with the spicy congas of Samuel Torres, Hay's soaring synthesizer, and Strickland's serene, thoughtful, smart soprano. The core tracks reflecting the Watts neo-bop signature include the Thelonious Monk type strutting blues "Ling's Lope," and the kinetic rhythm section workout on "Seed of Blakzilla," where Strickland's hip and heavy tenor skates around them. "Samo" introduces a 7/8 angular modal funk where Strickland employs a multitude of melodic devices suggesting Redman, Coltrane, Hank Mobley, Sonny Rollins, and Michael Brecker. More directly in the Seventh Avenue/Brecker Brothers skunk funk groove, "Blues 4 Curtis" fairly wails and swaggers big city style in waltz time, egged on by the wah-wah guitar of David Gilmore. There's a throwaway pop tune, but it is inconsequential enough as to not deter from this interesting, satisfying, and modernistic mainstream jazz effort from an extraordinary band, led by arguably the greatest contemporary jazz drummer of them all.
Performance CreditsJeff "Tain" Watts Primary Artist,Percussion,Drums
Dave Kikoski Piano
Christian McBride Electric Bass,Acoustic Bass
David Gilmore Guitar
Henry Hey Keyboards
Samuel Torres Percussion
Marcus Strickland Soprano Saxophone,Tenor Saxophone
Technical CreditsJeff "Tain" Watts Composer,Producer
Joe Marciano Engineer