ACU will welcome jazz drummer Jeff “Tain” Watts for multiple performances and master classes early next week.
Watts, a seven time Grammy Award winner, has played alongside the likes of jazz musicians Wynton and Branford Marsalis as well as Harry Connick, Jr. He has written and arranged music for groups as both a member and leader and also spent three years as the drummer for the Tonight Show with Jay Leno.
“I wouldn’t hesitate to call Jeff one of the greatest drummers alive,” said Derek Brown, director of jazz studies.
Brown directs ACU’s jazz ensemble and jazz combos and plays with the faculty jazz ensemble. He has worked each year to bring a prominent jazz musician to campus. In recent years, Brown brought in Jeff Coffin, the saxophonist for the Dave Matthews Band, and Christian McBride, a famous bassist.
“I try to bring in a guest artist every year,” he said. “It’s just great for the students to interact with them and get pumped about playing.”
Brown first saw Watts play as a backup drummer at a concert while he was in college.
“[Watts] kind of stole the show,” said Brown. “He was unbelievable.”
Bringing musicians to campus is one of the greatest events for students, said Brown.
“You can tell they just want to play their best,” he said. “They are really focused on whoever is here just listening to what they have to say. These guys are doing what [the students] dream of doing, being professional musicians.”
Students will have many opportunities to play with, learn from and watch the world-class instrumentalist.
Watts arrives in Abilene on Monday and will lead a free jazz drumming class in the band hall of the Williams Performing Arts Center at 3 p.m. On Tuesday, he will lead a second class, focused on other instruments, at 11 a.m. in the WPAC Recital Hall.
Cullen Auditorium will host a free show featuring Watts playing alongside ACU’s various jazz groups on Tuesday at 7 p.m. Afterward, Watts will conduct a jam session at Monks coffee shop where he will play with anyone who wants to join him on stage.