One of the most in demand jazz drummers in the world today, Jeff initially majored in classical percussion at Pittsburgh’s Duquesne University, where he was primarily a timpanist, followed by enrollment at the Berklee School of Music, where he pursued jazz studies alongside such talented players as Branford Marsalis, Kevin Eubanks, Greg Osby, Aimee Mann, Steve Vai and Marvin “Smitty” Smith.
Jeff joined the Wynton Marsalis Quartet in 1981 and proceeded to win three Grammy Awards with the ensemble. Watts left Wynton Marsalis in 1988. After working with George Benson, Harry Connick. Jr. and McCoy Tyner, he joined the Branford Marsalis Quartet in 1989.
Jeff has worked in the film and television industry as both a musician on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno and as an actor, Rhythm Jones in Spike Lee’s “Mo Better Blues”. Jeff joined Kenny Garrett’s band after returning to New York in 1995 after three years in LA on the Tonight Show. Watts also continued to record and tour with Branford Marsalis as well as Danilo Perez, Michael Brecker, Betty Carter, Kenny Kirkland, Courtney Pine, Geri Allen, Alice Coltrane, Greg Osby, Steve Coleman, Gonzalo Rubalcaba, and Ravi Coltrane.
Along with explosive power, blinding speed and mastery of complex rhythms and time signatures, Watts brings a rare sense of elegance, tried-by-fire composure, and a gritty street funk to his music. His artistic ingenuity expresses itself in his incomparable technique, sweltering sense of swing, and an extraordinary ability to imbue his music with majestic grace and elegant repose. A true jazz innovator, Watts never fails to deliver the percussive magic that has been his trademark since his emergence on the contemporary jazz scene.
Jeff has an extensive discography as a side-man, as well as six albums as a leader. Jeff was also the producer on five of those releases “Bar Talk” (Sony 2002), “Detained: Live at the Blue Note” (Half Note 2004) and Dark Key Music releases, “Folk’s Songs” (2007), “WATTS” (2009) and “Family” (2011).
Hosted, Produced, and Edited by Joyce Jones.
The Watts Family Reunion Band will be at the Jazz Standard in New York from July 18-21. Tune in to win a pair of tickets to one of the shows! “Tain” will also be appearing at the 2013 Newport Jazz Festival with David Gilmore’s Numerology and be leading a group at New York’s Village Vanguard in September 2013.
Watch this short clip from Spike Lee’s film Mo’ Better Blues featuring Jeff “Tain Watts on drums.
Also watch “Tain” solo, courtesy of Drummerworld magazine.
The next show will air on Sunday March 24, 2013 from 11 PM to 1 AM Eastern Standard Time on WBAI Radio, 99.5 FM in the NYC metro area or streaming online at wbai.org. This installment of the program will feature vocalist and pianist Diane Schuur. Listen to a short preview below:
Born in Tacoma, Washington, in December 1953, Schuur was blind from birth. She grew up in nearby Auburn, Washington, where her father was a police captain. Nicknamed Deedles at a young age, Schuur discovered the world of jazz via her father, a piano player, and her mother, who kept a formidable collection of Duke Ellington and Dinah Washington records in the house.
She was still a toddler when she learned to sing the Dinah Washington signature song, “What a Difference a Day Makes.” Armed with the rare gift of perfect pitch, Schuur taught herself piano by ear and developed a rich, resonant vocal style early on, as evidenced in a recording of her first public performance at a Holiday Inn in Tacoma when she was ten years old. She received formal piano training at the Washington State School for the Blind, which she attended until age 11. By her early teens, she had amassed her own collection of Washington’s records and looked to the legendary vocalist as her primary inspiration.
Schuur made her first record in 1971, a country single entitled “Dear Mommy and Daddy,” produced by Jimmy Wakely. After high school, she focused on jazz and gigged around the northwest. In 1975, an informal audition with trumpeter Doc Severinson (then the leader of the Tonight Show band) led to a gig with Tonight Show drummer Ed Shaughnessy’s group at the Monterey Jazz Festival. She sang a gospel suite with Shaughnessy’s band in front of a festival audience that included jazz tenor saxophonist Stan Getz, who in turn invited her to participate in a talent showcase at the White House. A subsequent return performance at the White House led to a record deal with GRP, which released Schuur’s debut album, Deedles, in 1984.
Over the next 13 years, Schuur recorded 11 albums on GRP, including two Grammy winners: Timeless (1986) and Diane Schuur and the Count Basie Orchestra (1987).
After one album on Atlantic records in 1999 – Music is My Life, produced by Ahmet Ertegun – Schuur joined the Concord label with the 2000 release of Friends For Schuur. The move to Concord marked the beginning of a series of highly successful collaborative projects: Swingin’ For Schuur (2001), a set of finely crafted duets with trumpeter Maynard Ferguson; Midnight (2003), Schuur’s unique interpretations of thirteen songs (mostly new material) written or co-written by Barry Manilow; and Schuur Fire (2005), a decidedly Latin-flavored album featuring the Caribbean Jazz Project.
Schuur’s February 2008 Concord release, Some Other Time, is a recording of songs by jazz artists whom she first discovered via her parents during her childhood and adolescent years. The set also includes a surprisingly mature-sounding rendition of “September in the Rain,” recorded at the Holiday Inn in Tacoma in 1964 when Schuur was only ten years old.
Diane Schuur’s latest studio release, The Gathering, is unique in both material and style, and features special guests Alison Krauss, Vince Gill, Mark Knopfler, Larry Carlton and Kirk Whalum. The Gathering is a collection of 10 classic country songs, mostly written during the golden era of the 1960s, and is the first time Schuur has featured this genre of music to this extent.
Schuur’s most recent release is Diane Schuur Live, and it is a unique and special album as it’s a project close to Diane’s heart. This album is dedicated to Diane Schuur’s husband, Les Crockett. The recording takes place where she and her husband shared a magical night reflecting on memories of the very place they first met 16 years earlier.
Engineered, Produced, and Hosted by Joyce Jones.
WBAI’s financial situation remains dire due to back rent owed on their transmitter at NYC’s Empire State Building. Please give what you can to the WBAI Transmitter Fund and/or come out next Wednesday, March 27, for the WBAI Dance Party at S.O.B.’s.
Web extra: Watch Diane Schuur and Ray Charles perform live.
This installment will focus on the music and career of Ms. Betty Carter. There will be discussions with Ms. Ora Harris, Ms. Carter’s manager and friend, and pianist Danny Mixon. It will air on Sunday June 6, 2012 at 11:00pm – Monday at 1:00am on WBAI, 99.5 FM in the NYC metro area or streaming online at wbai.org. You can listen to the 30-second promo here.
Betty Carter was born Lillie Mae Jones in Flint, MI, on May 16, 1930 (though some sources list 1929 instead). She grew up in Detroit, where her father worked as a church musical director, and she started studying piano at the Detroit Conservatory of Music as a child. In high school, she got hooked on bebop, and at 16 years old, she sat in with Charlie Parker during the saxophonist’s Detroit gig. She won a talent contest and became a regular on the local club circuit, singing and playing piano, and also performed with the likes of Dizzy Gillespie, Sarah Vaughan, and Billy Eckstine when they passed through Detroit. When Lionel Hampton came to town in 1948, he hired her as a featured vocalist. Initially billed as Lorraine Carter, she was soon dubbed “Betty Bebop” by Hampton, whose more traditional repertoire didn’t always mesh with her imaginative flights of improvisation. In fact, according to legend, Hampton fired Carter seven times in two and a half years, rehiring her each time at the behest of his wife Gladys. Although the Betty Bebop nickname started out as a criticism, it stuck, and eventually Carter grew accustomed to it, enough to permanently alter her stage name.
Carter and Hampton parted ways for good in 1951, and she hit the jazz scene in New York City, singing with several different groups over the next few years. She made a few appearances at the Apollo, performing with bop legends like Dizzy Gillespie and Max Roach, and cut her first album for Columbia in 1955 with pianist Ray Bryant (the aptly titled Meet Betty Carter and Ray Bryant). A 1956 session with Gigi Gryce went unissued until 1980, and in 1958 she cut two albums, I Can’t Help It and Out There, that failed to attract much notice. She spent 1958 and 1959 on the road with Miles Davis, who later recommended her as a duet partner to Ray Charles. Carter signed with ABC-Paramount and recorded The Modern Sound of Betty Carter in 1960, but it wasn’t until she teamed up with Charles in 1961 for the legendary duet album Ray Charles and Betty Carter that she finally caught the public’s ear. A hit with critics and record buyers alike, Ray Charles and Betty Carter spawned a classic single in their sexy duet version of “Baby, It’s Cold Outside,” and even though the album spent years out of print, it only grew in stature as a result.
Oddly, in the wake of her breakthrough success, Carter effectively retired from music for much of the ’60s in order to concentrate on raising her two sons. She did return briefly to recording in 1963 with the Atco album ‘Round Midnight, which proved too challenging for critics expecting the smoothness of her work with Charles, and again in 1965 with the brief United Artists album Inside Betty Carter. Other than those efforts, Carter played only sporadic gigs around New York, and was mostly forgotten.
Unable to interest any record companies, Carter founded her own label, Bet-Car, and released her music on her own for nearly two decades. At the Village Vanguard, a live recording made in 1970, is generally acknowledged as ranking among her best. Carter spent most of the decade touring extensively to help make ends meet, maintaining a trio that evolved into a training ground for young jazz musicians; she preferred to seek and develop new talent as a way of keeping her own music fresh and vital. Over the years, her groups included musicians like pianists Jacky Terrasson, Cyrus Chestnut, Benny Green, John Hicks, Stephen Scott, and Mulgrew Miller; bassists Dave Holland, Buster Williams, Curtis Lundy, and Ira Coleman; and drummers Jack DeJohnette, Lewis Nash, Kenny Washington, Winard Harper, and Greg Hutchinson.
Carter delivered standout performances at the Newport Jazz Festival in both 1977 and 1978, setting her on the road to a comeback. In 1979, she recorded The Audience With Betty Carter, regarded by many as her finest album and even as a landmark of vocal jazz. 1982 brought a live album with orchestra backing, Whatever Happened to Love?, and five years later, she recorded a live duets album with Carmen McRae at San Francisco’s Great American Music Hall. She continued to tour as well, and when Polygram’s reactivated Verve label started signing underappreciated veterans (Abbey Lincoln, Shirley Horn, Nina Simone, etc.), they gave Carter her first major-label record deal since the ’60s. Verve reissued much of her Bet-Car output, giving those records far better distribution than they’d ever enjoyed, and Carter entered the studio to record a brand-new album, Look What I Got, which was released to excellent reviews in 1988. It also won Carter her first Grammy, signaling that critics and audiences alike had finally caught up to her advanced, challenging style.
Over the next few years, Carter continued to turn out acclaimed albums for Verve, winning numerous reader’s polls with recordings like 1990’s Droppin’ Things, 1992’s It’s Not About the Melody, 1994’s live Feed the Fire, and 1996’s I’m Yours, You’re Mine. Additionally, she expanded her interest in developing new jazz talent through her Jazz Ahead program, which began in 1993 and offered young musicians the chance to workshop with her at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. She also gave presentations on jazz to students of all ages, and remained an outspoken critic of the watered-down quality of much contemporary jazz. She performed at the Lincoln Center in 1993, and the following year for President Clinton at the White House; three years later, he presented her with a National Medal of Arts. Carter lost a battle with pancreatic cancer on September 26, 1998, passing away at her home in the Fort Greene section of Brooklyn.
Hosted by Joyce Jones
Beginning in 1989, this Philadelphia-born bassist moved to New York City to further his classical studies at the Juilliard School, only to be snatched up by alto saxophonist, Bobby Watson. Since then, McBride’s list of accomplishments have been nothing short of staggering. As a sideman in the jazz world alone, he’s worked with the best of the very best – Freddie Hubbard, Sonny Rollins, J.J. Johnson, Ray Brown, Milt Jackson, McCoy Tyner, Roy Haynes, Chick Corea, Herbie Hancock and Pat Metheny. In the R&B world, he’s not only played with, but also arranged for Isaac Hayes, Chaka Khan, Natalie Cole, Lalah Hathaway, and the one and only Godfather of Soul himself, James Brown. In the pop/rock world, he’s extensively collaborated with Sting, Carly Simon, Don Henley, and Bruce Hornsby. In the hip-hop/neo-soul world, he’s collaborated with the Roots, D’Angelo, and Queen Latifah. In many other specialty projects, he’s worked closely with opera legend Kathleen Battle, bass virtuoso Edgar Meyer, the Shanghai Quartet and the Sonus Quartet.
Away from the bass, Christian has become quite an astute and respected spokesperson for the music. In 1997, he spoke on former President Bill Clinton’s town hall meeting “Racism in the Performing Arts”. In 2000, he was named Artistic Director of the Jazz Aspen Snowmass Summer Sessions. In 2005, he was officially named the co-director of the National Jazz Museum in Harlem. Also in 2005, he was named the second Creative Chair for Jazz of the Los Angeles Philharmonic Association.
Hosted by Arts Producer Joyce Jones
The next show will air at a special time: Monday October 10 from 10:00pm – Midnight Eastern Standard Time on WBAI, 99.5 FM in the NYC area or streaming online at wbai.org and will feature an interview with the incredibly versatile guitarist Pat Metheny.
Pat Metheny was born in Kansas City on August 12, 1954 into a musical family. Starting on trumpet at the age of 8, Metheny switched to guitar at age 12. By the age of 15, he was working regularly with the best jazz musicians in Kansas City, receiving valuable on-the-bandstand experience at an unusually young age. Metheny first burst onto the international jazz scene in 1974. Over the course of his three-year stint with vibraphon…e great Gary Burton, the young Missouri native already displayed his soon-to-become trademarked playing style, which blended the loose and flexible articulation customarily reserved for horn players with an advanced rhythmic and harmonic sensibility – a way of playing and improvising that was modern in conception but grounded deeply in the jazz tradition of melody, swing, and the blues. With the release of his first album, Bright Size Life (1975), he reinvented the traditional “jazz guitar” sound for a new generation of players. Throughout his career, Pat Metheny has continued to re-define the genre by utilizing new technology and constantly working to evolve the improvisational and sonic potential of his instrument.
During this membership/fund drive special, we will feature a discussion with Pat and share cuts from his latest release “What’s It All About.” Please join us and help keep this listener-supported experiment alive.
Hosted by Arts Producers Joyce Jones and Hank Williams.
Ms. Bridgewater made her phenomenal New York debut in 1970 as the lead vocalist for the band led by Thad Jones and Mel Lewis, one of the premier jazz orchestras of the time. These New York years marked an early career in concerts and on recordings with such giants as Sonny Rollins, Dizzy Gillespie, Dexter Gordon, Max Roach and Roland Kirk, and rich experiences with Norman Connors, Stanley Clarke and the recently departed Frank Foster’s “Loud Minority.”
Ms. Bridgewater doesn’t care much for labels, and in 1974 she jumped at the chance to act and sing on Broadway where her voice, beauty and stage presence won her great success and a Tony Award for her role as Glinda the Good Witch in The Wiz. This began a long line of awards and accolades as well as opportunities to work in Tokyo, Los Angeles, Paris and in London where she garnered the coveted “Laurence Olivier” Award nomination as Best Actress for her tour de force portrayal of jazz legend Billie Holiday in Stephen Stahl’s Lady Day.
Tune in from 11 PM to 1 AM EST on 99.5 FM in the NYC metro area to hear more about this extraordinary song stylist, actress and entertainer. You can also listen to the live stream from wbai.org. Also WBAI will offer a sneak preview of Ms. Bridgewater’s recording Midnight Sun, which is scheduled to release on August 23.