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Jeff "Tain" Watts, Citizen Tain (CD, 71:04); Columbia CSK 
41347, 1999
Columbia Jazz
550 Madison Avenue
New York, NY 10022-3211
Phone: 212-833-7080
Cyberhome: www.columbiajazz.com

        In the mid 80s a single record got me hooked on straightahead 
jazz, and that record was Wynton Marsalis's Black Codes from 
the Underground. The powerhouse drumming of Jeff "Tain" Watts 
was one of the elements that floored me. Watts remains a pillar of 
the current scene, playing in Branford Marsalis's brilliant 
quartet and doing fine work for Michael Brecker, Kenny Garrett, 
Dave Holland, and others. Citizen Tain is his debut as a 
	The disc opens with "The Impaler." The head sounds uncannily 
like vintage Blue Note. Wynton and Branford play the fast, 
twisting melody with a precision that recalls Kenny Dorham and Joe 
Henderson on In 'n' Out. Once the solos kick in, "The 
Impaler" could almost be a track on Black Codes. Wynton, 
who plays only on the first and last cuts, breathes fire-his solo 
is practically worth the price of admission. He hands the baton to 
Branford, who solos fiercely on tenor as the band temporarily 
suspends the form, vamping modally over one of those wild, Tainish 
bash-out grooves. When the tension's about ready to boil over, the 
group reenters the form and reverts back to mad swing. Branford 
finishes his say and then Kenny Kirkland takes over on piano. Yes, 
this is the sound that converted me. When you think about it, 
though, it's no surprise that this track sounds so much like 
Wynton's old quintet. It is Wynton's old quintet. And it's 
marvelous to hear.
	Tain's agenda, however, is not a trip down Marsalis memory 
lane. Citizen Tain is supposed to highlight the drummer's 
fledgling compositional abilities. All tracks but one are Tain 
originals. In addition to "The Impaler," four others are 
absolutely stunning. "Attainment," a quartet piece featuring 
Branford, suggests "Alabama"-era Coltrane but its surprising 
cadences and unpredictable form transport it into wholly new 
territory. "Pools of Amber" is a Kirkland trio feature with 
gorgeous changes and motifs. "Wry Köln," another quartet number, 
melds burning post-bop and free jazz in ingenious ways, with turn-
on-a-dime tempo and feel changes and a "wry" rubato interlude that 
sounds like a maudlin moment in a silent film score. (Bassist Eric 
Revis replaces Reginald Veal for this one track.) And the 
ambitious yet brief "Destruction and Rebirth Suite" begins with a 
spooky "MLK Shake-Up Call" and segues into a beautiful ballad 
called "Paen," which features Tain on vibes.
	The remaining tracks feature some great playing but don't 
rise to the same level as compositions. "Muphkin Man" is a Monk-
inspired piano trio feature with excellent soloing by Kirkland, 
Veal, and Tain. "Blutain, Jr." and "Bigtain's Blue Adventure" are 
variations on the same blues theme-one that appeared a couple of 
years ago on Branford's The Dark Keys. Altoist Kenny 
Garrett makes an appearance on "Sigmund Groid," which sounds more 
like a Kenny Garrett tune than a Tain tune. This is a telling 
example of how Tain's voice at times is too similar to the voices 
of the various heavyweight leaders for whom he has worked. Another 
example is "Trieste"; a far better performance of this great Paul 
Motian composition appears on Branford's latest CD, 
Requiem. Tain could have chosen a tune that Branford hasn't 
already recorded.
	On the whole, then, a tad uneven but still remarkable. 
Admirers of the late, great Kenny Kirkland will certainly be 
gratified. And when the CD stops spinning, listeners will be 
licking their chops in anticipation of their next helping of Tain 
~David R. Adler

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