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Charlie Watts: Watts at Scott’s

Charlie Watts

When the Rolling Stones’ Charlie Watts last recorded a jazz group at one of Ronnie Scott’s clubs, the year was 1992, and the result was the largely unlistenable A Tribute to Charlie Parker With Strings (Continuum). Watts assembled a group of muscular improvisers, but he lacked a firm handle on the subtleties of jazz drumming. His snare syncopations were unbearably labored, his kick drum leaden and downbeat-addicted. Bernard Fowler’s overly serious narration, drawn from the text of Watts’ 1964 children’s book, Ode to a High Flying Bird, didn’t help matters. Oddly, an earlier studio EP called From One Charlie, with the same group and many of the same tunes, featured Watts in a far more flattering light.

Watts at Scott’s, a new two-disc recording from Ronnie Scott’s London club, comes as a relief. Watts is still no virtuoso, but he has the hang of it, and he knows how not to encumber his very hip band. The core of the Tentet is in fact Watts’ working quintet, with altoist Peter King, trumpeter Gerard Presencer, pianist Brian Lemon and bassist Dave Green. Joining them are six strong players: tenor saxophonist Julian Arguelles, vibist Anthony Kerr, trumpeter Henry Lowther, trombonist Mark Nightingale, baritone player Alan Barnes and percussionist Luis Jardim (for a total of 11 band members, in fact).

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