In 2017 Jeff was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship for study in the field of Music Composition. Learn more here: https://www.gf.org/fellows/all-fellows/jeff-tain-watts/
Jeff Watts, the drummer they call "Tain," spent his formative years with Wynton and Branford Marsalis, and his compositional skills now command equal attention.
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.
Jeff joined the Wynton Marsalis Quartet in 1981 and proceeded to win three Grammy Awards with the ensemble: Black Codes From The Underground, J Mood and Marsalis Standard Time - Vol. 1. 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, winning Grammy's for I Heard You Twice the First Time and Contemporary Jazz.
In the film and television industry Jeff has appeared 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 and 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, McCoy Tyner, Steve Coleman, Gonzalo Rubalcaba, Harry Connick Jr, and Ravi Coltrane.
Jeff has an extensive discography as a side-man, as well as ten albums as a leader:
Citizen Tain (Sony 1999)
Bar Talk (Sony 2002)
MegaWatts (Sunnyside 2003)
Detained, Live at the Blue Note (Half Note 2004)
Folk's Songs (Dark Key Music 2007)
WATTS (Dark Key Music 2009)
Family (Dark Key Music 2011)
Blue, Vol. 1 (Dark Key Music 2015)
Wattify (Dark Key Music 2016)
Blue, Vol. 2 (Dark Key Music 2016)
Travel Band, Detined in Amsterdam (Dark Key Music 2018)
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.