Charlie Watts (A jazz drummer trapped in a rock band)

Hey Improvisers,

The great Charlie Watts passed away this week.

Watts was (is) one of my musical heroes, and in a very real sense was a jazz drummer trapped in one of the most popular rock bands on the planet. (Please excuse the “trapped” pun!)

Charlie discovered jazz as a youth when he heard Gerry Mulligan’s tune “Walking Shoes,” and initially turned down the gig with the Rolling Stones because he didn’t like most rock and roll music. Of course, he grew to love playing rock but in his heart, he retained the jazz sensibility and would open up to interviewers if they brought up the subject of jazz.

Here’s a nice video tribute to him that his Rolling Stone bandmates put together:

Rolling Stones Remember Drummer Charlie Watts In Moving Video Tribute

If you’d like to see and hear him play some nice jazz brushwork, here he’s playing the jazz standard “What’s New” on the David Letterman TV show:

Charlie Watts Quintet: What’s New

And for some heartfelt anecdotes about this humble person, here are some emails that Bob Lefsetz published on his blog:


I’ve always been inspired by the perseverance of Charlie Watts and The Rolling Stones, and they are part of the reservoir of inspiration and strength I draw upon when making my Journey Through The Real Book videos. So far I’m 4 years into the project, which isn’t quite as long as the 58 years that Watts was in the Stones, but hey, everyone has to start somewhere!

Here’s the latest:

Kelo: Journey Through The Real Book #203

Thank you, Charlie Watts. You certainly enjoyed the journey and let the music flow!


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