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Reviewers: Don Mather, Dick Stafford, John Eyles, Robert Gibson, Ian Lace, Colin Clarke, Jack Ashby



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Crotchet
Tim Ries
The Rolling Stones Project
Concord Records. CCD-2260-2

 

 

 

1. (I Canít Get No) Satisfaction
2. Honky Tonk Woman
3. Slippiní Away
4. Street Fighting Man
5. Wild Horses
6. Waiting on a Friend
7. Paint It Black
8. Honky Tonk Women (Keithís version)
9. Ruby Tuesday
10. Gimme Shelter
11. Belleli
 
Jeff Ballard (Percussion on tracks 1 and 4)
Bill Charlap (Piano on tracks 1, 7 and 10)
Michael Davis (Trombone on tracks 1 and 10)
Bernard Fowler (Vocals on track 1)
Larry Goldings (Organ on tracks 1, 2, 3 and 8)
John Patitucci (Bass on tracks 1, 4 and 10)
Clarence Penn (Drums on tracks 1, 4, and 5)
Tim Ries ( Tenor sax on tracks 1, 2, 3, 6, 7, 8, 10 and 11; soprano sax on tracks 4, 5 and 9)
John Scofield (Guitar on track 1)
Edward Simon (Piano on tracks 1 and 4)
Charlie Watts (Drums on tracks 2, 3, 6, 8 and 11)
Sheryl Crow (Vocals on track 3)
Darryl Jones (Bass and vocals on track 3; bass on tracks 6 and 8)
Keith Richards (Guitar and vocals on track 3; guitar on track 8)
Ronnie Wood (Guitar on track 3)
Jeff Ballard (Percussion on track 4)
Ben Monder (Guitar on tracks 4 and 10)
Mauro Refosco (Percussion on track 4)
Kent Smith (Trumpet and flugelhorn on track 4)
Luciana Souza (Vocals on track 4)
Bill Frisell (Guitar on tracks 5, 6, 9 and 11)
Norah Jones (Vocals and piano on track 5)
Tony Scherr (Bass and vocals on track 5)
Stacey Shames (Harp on track 5)
Lisa Fischer (Vocals on tracks 6, 8 and 10)
Brian Blade (Drums on tracks 7 and 10)
Robert DiGiola (Piano on track 11)
 

Infuriating as it may be for traditionalists, pop has long played a vital role in inspiring jazz musicians. As far back as the 1940s, the Tin Pan Alley favourites provided the structures and chord progressions for Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker. In his later years, the great Miles Davis brought his inimitable trumpet style to interpretations of Cyndi Lauper. And then, of course, thereís My Favourite Things - John Coltraneís acclaimed version of the Sound of Music classic.

With this is in mind, itís surprising that - aside from Jimmy Smithís cover of (I Canít Get No) Satisfaction and a later take on Wild Horses by organist Johnny Hammond Smith - The Rolling Stones have so long remained uncharted territory for modern jazz.

Of course, not many arrangers have been so closely connected with the Stones as Tim Ries, who toured with the group in 1999, playing saxophone, keyboard and organ. It was at the conclusion of this tour that he recorded his second album for the Criss Cross label, which included a rendition of Moonlight Mile. "The song had a loose jazz feel and seemed to work quite well," he says in the linear notes to The Rolling Stones Project. "In recording the song it occurred to me that the music of the Stones held great potential for jazz arrangements."

A couple of bars into this albumís opener, (I Canít Get No) Satisfaction, and itís easy to see what he means. From the stomping groove of the verse to the staccato blast of the chorus, itís as if the song were waiting to be reinvented in jazz. Ries draws out an upbeat funk, while maintaining a certain edginess in the bass and piano parts. The technical brilliance of all the musicians shows through instantly, particularly in Riesís sensitive sax playing, and John Scoffieldís masterful guitar. Thereís a lot of variation too, the arrangement consistently fresh and alive, never settling on the formulaic.

The entire collection, in fact, is notable for its innovation. Ruby Tuesday - which could have ruined by a heavy-handed approach - is stripped down to its very essence, Ries dueting on soprano sax with the great guitarist, Bill Frisell. Street Fighting Man is ingeniously performed in the style of Brazilian street music, led admirably by Mauro Refoscoís virtuosic percussion. And, in Paint it Black, the band the explore the full potential experimental jazz. Ben Monderís guitar solo is a masterpiece is in itself, hovering on the edge of dissonance, then easing tension by eventually returning to mutual harmonic ground. The whole piece, meanwhile, is held together by Brian Bladeís inspired drumming.

Altogether, there are 27 musicians involved in the project - including three Rolling Stones members - each carefully selected and placed on tracks most suited to their styles. Sheryl Crowís gorgeous vocals bring ethereal beauty to Slipping Away. Keith Richardís trademark guitar is brilliantly placed on Honkey Tonk Women. Lisa Fisherís bluesy voice adds a lot of soul to Waiting on a Friend. The most inspired combination of all, though, is Norah Jones with Wild Horses.

Jones, like Billie Holiday before her, has something intrinsically moving about her voice, making her perfectly suited to this melancholic number. "Every other track," says Ries, "is an instrumental with vocal background, but I arranged Wild Horses especially as a feature for Norah." Slow, sparse and atmospheric, with sensitive performances from Frisell on guitar, Rieís wife Stacy on harp, and Tony Scherr singing backing vocals, the stage is set for Jones to shine. "Norah," as Ries so eloquently puts it, "you truly are a rare bird with a song in your heart."

Stones fans, jazz fans, and, yes, even purists will all find something enjoyable here. Ries avoids the main pitfall that arrangers of this kind of music face - altering the tunes so dramatically that the things that made them worth covering at all are lost in the haze of obscurity. He plays with tempos, keys and rhythms, alters grooves and time signatures; but the great melodies that defined the compositions of Keith Richards and Mick Jagger are always honoured, rather than distorted, in this incredible piece of work.
 

Robert Gibson



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