Charlie Watts and Jim Keltner

The Charlie Watts/Jim Keltner Project
(Higher Octave Music)

Oh God, it's a world-beat record from two aging rock drummers who really ought to know better than to attempt something like this. Charlie Watts, long-time drummer for the Rolling Stones and American Civil War artifact collector, has never made it a secret that he loves jazz much more than the music he has played with his bandmates for the past thirtysomething years. He has done a number of solo recordings in the Nineties with big-band arrangements and strings, usually using Rolling Stones back-up singer Bernard Fowler as a crooner of sorts. Most of those records have been heavily sentimental and schmaltzy, but Watts has always hired solid musicians to arrange and play on these forays into Charlie Parker territory. So while the recordings may sound forced at times, they are sincere and fairly listenable. His chops as a jazz drummer may be a little clunky, but his heart is in the right place when he dons his jazz hat.

All that sincerity is out the window on this disc he has made with veteran session drummer and friend Jim Keltner, who has recorded with just about everybody in the past three decades.

What's wrong with this album? Just about everything, it seems. It's not really a Charlie Watts record, even though his name appears on the cover and he has consented to publicize it as something of a solo recording. Keltner is the main culprit here and takes hapless Charlie along for a ride down a clichéd path strewn with overused samples and hackneyed loops. Each composition on the record is named after a famous jazz drummer; Elvin Jones, Roy Haynes, Art Blakey, Shelley Manne, Max Roach, the late Tony Williams, and others are all here in name. And in name only, since the titled tracks have nothing to do with the styles or sounds of these worthy drummers. Keltner just cobbled together some basic tracks and threw Burundi beats and exotic percussion on top of them. He insists that each “song” was constructed around Charlie, but Watts's presence behind the drum kit often is impossible to detect in these busy and meandering pieces.

Granted it's nice to see Charlie getting some press for his worthy drumming beyond his work with the Stones. Unfortunately there doesn't seem to be much of Charlie on his new record. Advice to Keltner: Next time just let him play the drums. Now that would be something that hard-core Charlie Watts fans would like to hear.

 
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