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Jeff “Tain” Watts and Friends Brighten The Iridium with a Blazing Ensemble
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Jeff “Tain” Watts and Friends Brighten The Iridium with a Blazing Ensemble

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Jeff “Tain” Watts and Friends
(Jeff “Tain” Watts Web Page)

Jeff “Tain” Watts on Drums
Troy Roberts on Tenor Saxophone
James Genus on Bass
James Francies on Piano

The Iridium
1650 Broadway (at 51st St.)
New York, NY 10019
Scott Barbarino, Manager

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
July 19 and July 20, 2014

“Brekky With Drecky”
“Of August Moon”
“May 15, 2011”
“Return of the Jitney Man”

I caught the second set of Jeff “Tain” Watts’ gig at The Iridium on Saturday, then returned for the end of the first set Sunday, to improve on the dark club photos. Not much of an improvement, as seating Sunday was jammed, a good thing for a Club in summer. The Iridium was packed, because this renowned drummer, as casual and warm as they come, really brought the sound right to each listener, with his band’s vibrant, vivid riffs. The set began with a bluesy piano solo that immediately featured the very youthful and talented James Francies. He who set the keyboard on figurative fire, tearing up and down octaves, often in the high notes, with his wide shoulders bent low and hands in dizzying speed. Mr. Francies, a recent high school graduate, certainly has a bright future in the jazz community. James Genus’ bass solo took deep tones to this theme, before he frolicked with the strings in a playful melody. “Tain” Watts, wearing a retro fedora, accompanied the bass with bits of cymbals, added to the soft piano chords. Troy Roberts, a tenor sax dynamo, joined the quartet as “Tain”’s drums went wild, sticks flying over his head. The sax took a serene solo, toward the finale.

The second piece was more abstract, fused, a mixed musical mélange, contemporary and fueled with energy. In fact it had a Broadway beat – right where The Iridium has its home. James Francies on piano, following Troy Roberts on sax, skipped through the treble notes with fervor. The audience was magnetized with this sensational sound. Finally, “Tain” Watts had his showcase, with drums and cymbals exploding beyond his corner on the stage. Troy Roberts joined the melee, ending the piece in a flash of brass. After a pause, a soft, poignant sax, backed by softer brushes, began the next tune in a mellow, melancholy mood. Soon piano and sax merged, then James Francies copied the same sax theme, but with triple and quadruple timed echoes. The music had a sense of yearning. “Of August Moon”, a tribute to August Wilson, was introduced on piano. Repetitive phrases were soon overlaid by Troy Roberts’ sax, before the piano stole the spotlight. The warm music builds in volume and vivacity. “Tain” Watts infused rich rhythms to drive the pulse. Piano, bass, and sax went up and down the scales, then lower and lower. Drums repeated the tempo, bringing back the sax, which calmed and cooled the sound, as it faded.

As lights brightened, “Tain” Watts took the microphone and started singing about flowers blooming and May rain. His natural, well-pitched vocals were followed by the sax taking the theme. A foxtrot rhythm ensued, for a bit, then diffused into piano trills. The sax returned and fragmented the theme in soaring, compelling intonation. On second listening to this piece, the following night, the foxtrot rhythm took on Latin clavé. Watts’ “Return of the Jitney Man” is a wild party piece, filled with ebullience and tonal lightning. Each of these four musicians, on both nights, showcased improvisational solos that magnified and elevated the experience. It should be mentioned that on both nights Rich Freeman, a vocalist of the Five Satins, and a longtime sound engineer and artist announcer at The Iridium, kept the sound warm and animated. The Iridium remains a fixture on the jazz scene, with a diverse array of groups on its monthly calendar.

James Genus on Bass
Troy Roberts on Tenor Saxophone
Jeff "Tain" Watts on Drums
Courtesy of Roberta Zlokower

James Francies on Piano
James Genus on Bass
Jeff "Tain" Watts on Drums
Courtesy of Roberta Zlokower

For more information, contact Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower at