Charlie Watts – Anthology


Although legendary drummer Charlie Watts is best known as the powerhouse behind the best Rolling Stones records, he was also a jazz aficionado who released a series of albums in that genre while on downtime from his day job. Rock fans who followed Charlie into the realm of jazz were rewarded with some of his most varied and innovative playing, and the best of those years have been compiled as Anthology, a set that both swings and rocks, and will appeal equally to the long-term fan and the curious alike.

1985 was a year of great turmoil in the Stones camp and Watts, ever the stoic, found solace in his beloved jazz and formed the Charlie Watts Orchestra. That ensemble released Live From Fulham Town Hall the following year, and it is from that LP that the first two cuts on this collection are culled. A musical carnival for the ears, ‘Stomping At The Savoy’ is a musical explosion caught on tape, and it veritably jumps from the grooves with unbridled effervescence. As befitted his cool demeanour, the Stones might have been crumbling, but Charlie was beating impeccable time with his Orchestra. Known for his nonchalant modesty, Mr Watts is content to take his place within the band on the following ‘Flying Home’ (and indeed, most of these tracks). He often plays behind the beat, allowing other instruments to come to the fore, only becoming busy at optimal moments, the drum roll at the end of a line, or a magical punch at a song’s conclusion. Every jazz band needs a solid foundation, fertile soil from which all sorts of goodness grows, and that’s exactly what Charlie provided. If jazz taught him one thing, then it was sometimes it is not what you play, but what you don’t: it’s all about leaving space into which the listener can infer their own meaning, and there’s plenty of room for interpretation on this collection.

It is often remarked that guitarists have their own signature style, not so much drummers, but in the case of Charlie Watts, it’s certainly true. That’s not to say his playing is generic, far from it, and this collection visits swing, be-bop and cool jazz, but whether playing rock or jazz, you know when you hear Charlie behind the kit, it’s a unique sense of timing and rhythm that’s wholly his. Visiting the great American songbook for the Gershwin/Weill composed ‘My Ship’ finds the band putting their own indelible stamp on proceedings (as all covers should be handled) and puts a new slant on familiar themes (which is probably the ultimate definition of jazz). Charlie does a Miles Davis on ‘Roy Haynes (Reprise)’ and goes electronic to deliver a Krautrock, motorik beat that’s akin to Herbie Hancock jamming with Kraftwerk. While the Stones could be experimental, this kind of amalgamation would be unthinkable, but jazz was the perfect vehicle for Charlie to display his broad palette.

Many jazz purists were undoubtedly snobby about a rock drummer playing “their” music, but Charlie Watts always was a jazz drummer, and he brought his natural swing and groove to many a Rolling Stones record. Those unfamiliar with Charlie’s background will find this collection illuminating to just how much his jazz schooling actually informed the “Stones sound”.

  • Anthology is released via BMG Records on 30th June 2023.

Track List:

Vinyl Edition

Side A:

  1. Stomping At The Savoy
  2. Flying Home
  3. Practising, Practising, Just Great
  4. Relaxing At Camarillo

Side B:

  1. Black Bird – White Chicks
  2. Cool Blues
  3. You go To My Head
  4. If I Should Lose You
  5. My Ship

Side C:

  1. Long Ago (And Far Away)
  2. Good Morning Heartache
  3. Never Let Me Go
  4. Roy Haynes (Reprise)
  5. Airto

Side D:

  1. Roll ‘Em Charlie
  2. What’s New
  3. Take The “A” Train

CD Edition

Disc One:

  1. Stomping At The Savoy
  2. Flying Home
  3. Practising, Practising, Just Great
  4. Bluebird
  5. Relaxing At Camarillo
  6. Going, Going, Going, Gone
  7. Black Bird – White Chicks
  8. Cool Blues
  9. Lover Man
  10. Perdido
  11. You Go To My Head
  12. If I Should Lose You
  13. My Ship
  14. Long Ago (And Far Away)
  15. Good Morning Heartache
  16. Never Let Me Go

Disc Two:

  1. Roy Haynes (Reprise)
  2. Airto
  3. Elvin Suite
  4. Roll ‘Em Charlie
  5. What’s New
  6. Tin Tin Deo
  7. Sunset And The Mockingbird
  8. Take The “A” Train
  9. Rockhouse Boogie
  10. Ain’t Nobody Minding Your Store
  11. Swindon Swing