Jeff Watts, the drummer they call "Tain," spent his formative years with Wynton and Branford Marsalis, and his compositional skills now command equal attention, earning Watts a Guggenheim Fellowship in 2017.
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. 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 - Detained 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.
Jeff is a 2017 Guggenheim Fellow in the field of music Composition.
*Grammy Awards of 1986
Wynton Marsalis for Black Codes From the Underground performed by the Wynton Marsalis Group
*Grammy Awards of 1987
Wynton Marsalis for J Mood performed by the Wynton Marsalis Group
*Grammy Awards of 1988
Wynton Marsalis for Marsalis Standard Time - Volume I performed by the Wynton Marsalis Group
*Grammy Awards of 1993
Branford Marsalis for I Heard You Twice the First Time performed by the Branford Marsalis Group
*Grammy Awards of 2001
Branford Marsalis for Contemporary Jazz performed by the Branford Marsalis Quartet
*Grammy Awards of 2011
Mingus Big Band for Live at the Jazz Standard performed by the Mingus Big Band.
VOTED BEST DRUMMER, MODERN DRUMMER MAGAZINE, 1988 & 1993
Sonor Lite crafted from Scandinavian birch with black hardware, featuring a 14" x 7" snare, 12" and 13" rack toms, 14" and 15" floor toms, and a 20" bass drum. Recorded Live At Blues Alley, Bloomington, and Folk’s Songs.
Sonor Phonic kit with a classic Rosewood finish, featuring a 14" x 6.5" chrome snare, 12" and 13" rack toms, 14" and 16" floor toms, 18" or 22" bass drum. Recorded on Black Codes From The Underground, Citizen Tain, Watts and Family.
Sonor Hi-Lite Exclusive in sleek black with copper hardware, with a 14” x 4” copper signature snare, 12" and 13" rack toms, 14" and 16" floor tom, and 18" or 22" bass drum.
Sonor White Sparkle, Designer Series with a 14" x 6.5" Snare, 12" and 13" Toms, 14" and 16" Floor Toms, 20" bass drum. Played on the road with Branford Marsalis, on the Tonight Show + recorded Romare Bearden, Eternal, Braggtown, and the Love Supreme DVD.
Sonor SQ2 Series Ebony finish with a 14" x 6.5" Snare, 12" and 13" Toms, 14" and 16" Floor Toms, 20" bass drum. Recorded Blue, Vol. 1 & Blue, Vol. 2
13" Zildjian K Hi-Hat (top)/13" Sabian HH Hi-Hat (bottom)
22" Sabian Duo Ride (with a single rivet)
15" Sabian AAX Crash
20" K Zildjian or 20" Sabian HHX Ride
18" Sabian HH Rocktagon Crash
18" Sabian Ozone ride
various other dings.