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Drummer Database

Jeff Tain Watts

Name - Jeff | Born - 01/1960 | Nationality - American | Genre - Jazz

cool pic

Jeff established himself as a top jazz drummer, playing with many great groups including his own Jeff Tain Watts Quartet. He started learning drums at an early age, and went on to study at Dunquesne University and then at Berklee.

Jeff's style is quite elegant and tasteful, but he can also bring explosive power and speed into the mix. Combine that with his technique, funky-edge, and super sense of swing and it's clear to see why he's well respected.

Some of the great things about Jeff are that he's a really nice guy who's passionate about creating music. He's always looking to grow as a drummer, a composer, and a musician.


A live performance with a drum solo near the end


Jeff was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA on January 20th, 1960. His introduction to drums came at an early age and he started to practice seriously, developing his technique throughout his childhood. He took drum lessons and got his first kit when he was a teenager.

Jeff actually started out playing classical percussion and studied it through school. Later, he went on to continue his studies at Duquesne Universiy where he was the timpanist in the youth orchestra.

While at Duquesne, Jeff also became interested in other genres of music including funk and jazz-rock fusion. He listened to the playing of drumming greats like Tony Williams and Elvin Jones among others, but still intended to pursue a career in classical music.

After finishing his studies at Duquesne, Jeff was going to go to the New England Conservatory to continue his education, but instead he went to Berklee College of Music to study classical percussion privately.

It's his time at Berklee that really shaped Jeff Tain Watts' musical career. Here he met sax player, Branford Marsalis, who Jeff got heavily involved playing fusion with. This shift away from classical music led Jeff to move to New York in 1981 with Branford's brother, Wynton.

Jeff's professional career in jazz now really started to take off and he appeared on successful records released by Wynton throughout the 80's. Later in 1989 he joined Branford's band and moved to California where they got a regular gig in The Tonight Show band.

He moved back to New York in the mid 90's and continued to play with Marsalis' group. He also made more than 120 recordings as a sideman and worked with some of the best artists on the scene including Kenny Garrett, Michael Brecker, Geri Allen and more.

Jeff now started writing material for his own recordings as a band leader, and released his first album 'Citizen Tain' in 1999. Following it's success Jeff has released further albums that demonstrate his excellent drumming and writing skills.

Jeff still records and plays with many great musicians and continues to release recordings as a band leader.


Drums - Sonor | Cymbals - Sabian | Sticks - Vic Firth

Jeff's set up

Jeff Watts has played a few different sets by Sonor including the Designer Series, Hi-Lite Exclusive, and Sonor Phonic Drums. More recently he has played a Sonor Lite set in scandinavian birch with black hardware.

Generally, the shells sizes have stayed the same with a 20" bass drum (sometimes 18" or 22"), 12" and 13" rack toms, with 14" and 16" floor toms. The snare drums have changed from 14"x6.5" chrome, or 14"x4" copper, to 14"x7".

As for cymbals, Jeff plays Sabian including a 22" duo ride with one rivet, a 20" Ozone ride, a 18" HH Rocktagon, 15" AAX crash, and 13" hi-hats (HH Sabian bottom and a K Zildjian on top). He also uses 7A and 5A sticks as well as various brushes and mallets by Vic Firth.


Click to enlarge (opens in new window)

Selected Discography

* Wynton Marsalis (Wynton Marsalis, 1982)

* Hot House Flowers (Wynton Marsalis, 1984)

* J Mood (Wynton Marsalis, 1986)

* I Heard You Twice The forst Time (Branford Marsalis, 1992)

* PanaMonk (Danilo Perez, 1996)

* Comptempory Jazz (Branford Marsalis, 2001)

* Bar Talk (2002)

* Refugee (Hector Martignon, 2007)

* Folk's Songs (2007)

* Think of One (Wynton Marsalis, 1982)

* Scenes in the City (Branford Marsalis, 1984)

* Marsalis Standard Time (Wynton Marsalis, 1987)

* Mo Better Blues (Soundtrack, 1990)

* Megawatts (2004)

* Songbook (Kenny Garrett, 1997)

* Citizen Tain (1999)

* Eternal (Branford Marsalis, 2004)

* Detained at The Blue Note (2004)

* Watts (2009)

Books and Dvd's

* Coltrane's A Love Supreme Live (DVD)

Jeff Has Played With...

* Geri Allen

* Branford and Wynton

* Delfeayo Marsalis

* Eric Revis

* Joey Calderazzo

* Kenny Garrett

* Kenny Kirkland

* Robert Hurst III

* Patrick Smith

* Tim Geelan

* Charnett Moffett

* Bob Hurst

* Charles Farmbrough

* Steven Epstein

* Barbara Dennerlein

* Sonny Rollins

* Harry Miller

* Reginald Veal

* Ellis Marsalis

* Stanley Jordan

* Michael Brecker

* Paul Bollenback

* Terence Blanchard

* James Williams

* Lonnie Plaxico

* Jim Snidero

* Brian Lynch

* Benny Green

* Peter Washington

* Seamus Blake

* Scott Colley

* McCoy Tyner

* Danilo Perez

* And More...



"One of the main things people get from me is that I'm really trying, ya know, even when I suck I'm really really trying. I'm sincere and I wanna help people do what they're trying to do."

"I just kinda listen for how drummers use space or lack of space, ya know, create tension and release and how different drummers feel the beat and how that makes the music feel...That's kinda what I get from the great drummers like Max Roach."

About the recording process - "I just try to make everyone really comfortable, ya know, just getting everybody in time at the same time is enough."

"Every preconception, every opinion you have about yourself your conception, the way you want your style to be, what your focus is, it can all drastically change in like...two months or something...I'm trying to surrender myself to music."

"I get inspired by anyone who's just really trying to play. It could just be some guy in a bar, or it could be Hank Jones...or Arethra Franklin, she could just walk down the street and it would inspire me. It's like that ya know."

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