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Charlie Watts/Jim Keltner: The Charlie Watts/Jim Keltner Project

One of the best-known rock drummers in the world, Charlie Watts has made some dramatic stylistic departures on a variety of solo projects. On The Charlie Watts/Jim Keltner Project (Higher Octave 72438-48695-2-6, 54:52), The Rolling Stone’s rhythmic rock partners with percussion innovator Jim Keltner for something completely different-an interpretive soundscape, that clatters and pounds with uncommon power and feel. The duo utilizes untapped nuances and layers of percussive sound to flesh out tomes to legendary drummers. The roads taken are as powerful as they are surprising-from the magnificent, explosive rumble of African toms on “Art Blakey,” to the intense Eastern European flavors swirling through “Kenny Clarke,” with violins jamming on a hard-bowed, intense refrain to contrast off-kilter percussion breaks. Through the programming and effects, distinct moods and melodies emerge. “Airto,” for example, draws from a Brazilian-jazz base, with lightly sequenced vocalese hits, then loops and builds in intensity, allowing melodic figures to circle and grow. Even the album’s lone straightahead piece, “The Elvin Suite,” twists the listener, presenting an African vocal chorale to contrast the classic bass, piano and brushes for a stirring effect.

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