Watts at Scott’s – Charlie Watts and the Tentet
When you hear the Rolling Stones, what comes to mind? It probably isn’t their drummer. Can you think of his name? Well, it’s Charlie Watts. When he’s not satisfying arena nuts, he plays to a chiller crowd. Watts’ big band (33 strong) debuted at London’s legendary Ronnie Scott’s in 1985, the same venue where his scaled down tentet performed and recorded their recent two disc live set.
His list of band mates is a chunk of jazz’s in-crowd, mostly English musicians. All are heralded, have played alongside other jazz greats and are highly decorated. Dave Green (seven time winner, British Jazz Awards) is a great scene setter on the upright bass, Anthony Kerr (two times winner, BJA) really is masterful on the vibraphone and a pillar of the group, Brian Lemon (ten times winner, BJA) plays piano and Luis Jardim aids Watts with percussion. Horn men include Peter King on alto sax, Julian Arguelles on tenor sax, Alan Barnes (various sax and clarinet awards from the British Jazz Awards during the 90s) on baritone sax, Gerard Presencer (four times winner British Jazz Awards and, at age 11, the youngest ever member of Britain’s National Youth Jazz Orchestra) and Henry Lowther on trumpet and flugel horn and Mark Nightingale (Don Lusher Award at age 15) slides a mean trombone.
The all-star lineup took aim at a list of jazz standards including Duke Ellington’s "Mainstem," "Take the A Train," and "Sunset and the Mockingbird" and Thelonious Monk’s Bemsha Swing" on recording night and expectedly did everything justice. Lemon’s abilities are showcased on the cool jazz standard "Body and Soul."
Presencer’s own "Chasing Reality" is the jewel here. Hip-hop stop-and-go bass chunks are highlighted by brash inner city horn fights. Someone should really sample this.
You can hear The Stones in the metronomic drumming that begins the "(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction" inspired "Faction." The interpretation more closely resembles its parent when the trumpet screams the familiar melody.
I guess Watts does what drummers do best; some would argue it is their only function. He’s a great rhythm man and, in turn, a great conductor. Rather than pull out a lot of fancy-schmancy drum-technique trickery for the ear, he is able to hunker in and enjoy the masterful scene all around him. He remains away from the spotlight (like a "good" rock or jazz drummer is supposed to), even on a night when everybody knows who he is.