Rolling Stones drummer Charlie Watts and two touring musicians with the legendary rock band stopped by the Frost School of Music Monday to jam with students and talk about life in the business.
Students who turned out for the usual Monday evening jazz session were surprised when Watts, a long-time jazz lover, walked into the studio with singer-percussionist Bernard Fowler, and saxophonist Tim Ries.
The three sat in with the student big band, swinging their way through fabulous new treatments of “Under My Thumb,” and “Can’t Always Get What You Want.” They closed with the perennial favorite “Honky Tonk Woman” which showcased Watts playing a strong shuffle beat side-by-side with student drummer Marcelo Perez, a Stamps Music Scholar in the Frost School of Music.
Each Monday evening a hundred or so instrumental and vocal jazz musicians from the University of Miami’s Frost School gather together to hear student or faculty groups perform, and catch up on what’s happening on campus, and around town.
The Stones musicians had reached out to Frost Dean Shelly Berg to see if they could bring some new big band charts by for a read-through.
The students didn’t know what was in store.
Watts, one of the founding members of the Rolling Stones, spent an hour afterward graciously talking one-on-one with students, posing for selfies and photos, and talking shop about drum gear, life on the road, and his love of jazz. Known for his gentle off-stage demeanor, his onstage strength has provided a solid backbeat for decades to hits such as “Time is On My Side,” “Jumpin’ Jack Flash,” and “Gimme Shelter,” fronted by band mates Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, and Ronnie Woods.
In between songs, one undergrad student asked Ries, who had just traded sizzling jazz choruses with doctoral candidate saxophonist Phil Doyle, what it’s like to be a jazz musician working for one of the biggest bands of all times. Ries replied, “Well, I don’t think of myself as a jazz musician, I play everything. Don’t worry so much about being a jazz musician. Have fun, and take gigs!”
Fowler, who has toured as a background singer with the Stones for over 30 years, infused each song with bluesy aplomb and even jammed on the congas for a tune. He hung out afterward with all of the student jazz singers in the room, who soaked up his every word.
The Rolling Stones stopped in Miami en route to Cuba, where they will perform a free concert Friday, following U.S. President Barack Obama's historic visit to the island.
After their landmark concert in Cuba, the group will take a tour break and many in the group will pursue individual music projects.
Keeping busy on the road, Ries has been arranging new big band charts of music by the Rolling Stones over the past year, and was eager to hear his creations live. When he landed in Miami, he immediately thought of the Frost School to do a run through.
Under the direction of Associate Professor John Daversa, the Frost Concert Jazz Band read the charts down in one take, and now there is talk of returning to the UM campus to record the charts for commercial release.