Charlie Watts and Tim Ries on Piano Jazz Drummer Charlie Watts has been the heartbeat of The Rolling Stones for more than forty years, though his true passion has always been jazz and the blues. Saxophonist Tim Ries is currently playing with the Stones. Hear the trio play through jazz standards and Stones songs.
NPR logo Charlie Watts and Tim Ries on Piano Jazz

Charlie Watts and Tim Ries on Piano Jazz

Charlie Watts and Tim Ries in Studio on Piano Jazz

Audio is no longer available

Charlie Watts and Tim Ries in Studio on Piano Jazz

Audio is no longer available

Set List

  • "Honky Tonk Women" (Jagger, Richards)
  • "Scrapple from the Apple" (Parker)
  • "In a Sentimental Mood" (Ellington)
  • "Monk's Dream" (Monk)
  • "Belleli" (Ries)
  • "Threnody" (McPartland)
  • "Parisian Thoroughfare" (Powell)

Charlie Watts is best known as the drummer for The Rolling Stones. He was born in the Islington borough of London on June 2, 1941.

Charlie Watts. hide caption

toggle caption

As a youngster, Watts was drawn to jazz. He idolized jazz greats Louis Armstrong, Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker, then became interested in the drummers who backed them: legends like Chico Hamilton, Max Roach and Dave Tough.

Watts made his first drum out of the head of an old banjo, setting the improvised instrument on a stand and fashioning a set of wire brushes to get the sound he was hearing on jazz records. Several years later, his father bought him a second-hand drum set and he began to teach himself to play.

Watts went on to college, attending the Harrow Art School and training to be a commercial artist. At nights though, he found drumming gigs around London. By the early '60s Watts was performing with guitarist Brian Jones in a band called Alexis Korner's Blues Incorporated. The group was occasionally joined by singer Mick Jagger and guitarist Keith Richards, who were at the time playing in their own group Little Boy Blue and the Blue Boys.

Watts eventually quit Blues Inc. and went to work full time for an advertising agency. Meanwhile, Jaggar, Richards and Jones had put together a new group called The Rolling Stones. In 1963, having gone through several drummers, The Stones convinced Watts to quit his job and join the group. International fame followed.

In the 1980s, Watts found time between Stones recordings and tours to devote time to his first love — jazz. In 1985, he toured with a 32-piece big band called the Charlie Watts Orchestra. A year later, he released the album Live at Fulham Town Hall. In 1991, Watts formed a jazz quintet and released four albums over the next five years. His latest album, Watts at Scott's, features the drummer with his quintet (now called The Tenent) in a live set from London's legendary jazz spot, Ronnie Scott's.

More About Tim Ries

Saxophonist Tim Ries hails from the Detroit area. His father, Jack Ries, was a professional trumpet player who played all manner of gigs around town. His mother played piano and his three sisters also played piano and sang.

A young Ries often accompanied his parents on gigs and in so doing received a great deal of exposure to a variety of music styles, musicians, and instruments. At age 8, he spotted a sax player on one of his father's dates and announced his interest in learning to play the instrument.

Immersed in jazz music from a young age, Ries immediately started picking out familiar tunes. His father also enrolled him in classical lessons at the nearby University of Michigan. By the time he reached high school, Ries was already sitting in with various Detroit musicians on professional gigs.

He attended college at the University of North Texas, a school known for its jazz instruction, before returning home for a Masters in composition and saxophone at the University of Michigan.

Almost immediately upon graduating, Ries hit the road with Maynard Ferguson. In 1985, he moved to New York, going on to play with Phil Woods, Al Foster, Joe Henderson, Donald Byrd, Dave Liebman, Danilo Perez and Maria Schneider. He has also done work in the pop world, backing Paul Simon, Stevie Wonder, Lyle Lovett and Blood Sweat & Tears.

In 1999, Ries was invited to join The Rolling Stones' "No Security" tour as a member of the horn section, and an occasional keyboardist.

After that first tour, Ries returned to his jazz bag, recording his second album, Alternate Side. On it, he included a jazz version of the Stones tune "Moonlight Mile."

Impressed by the nice fit of Stones melodies in jazz arrangements, Ries began a five-year project of arranging and recording an album of Jagger/Richards melodies. The Rolling Stones Project features performances by Watts, guitarists Richards and Ron Wood, and many other notables, including Sheryl Crow, Norah Jones, Bill Charlap, Larry Goldings, John Scofield and Bill Frisell.

Web Resources