Interview:Rhythm Bros.

Part 1: Origins of the Project / Album Highlights / Grace, Pulse, and Feel

Part 2: Light vs. Heavy Touch / Developing the Inner Musician / Keeping with the Times

Part 3: The "Cubist" Max Roach / The Drummer's Job

Part 4: The Master of the Backbeat Reveals His Classic Setup

Part 5: Rig Diagrams of Both Watts' and Keltner's Kits




Watts Keltner Project: Rhythm Bros.


Part 1: Origins of the Project / Album Highlights / Grace, Pulse, and Feel



What do two of the most famous drummers in the world do when you get them alone in one room? Make a madcap percussion symphony, that's what. This joint effort between rock and roll master Charlie Watts and session ace Jim Keltner is a lesson in imaginative, cross-bred music styles, befitting the pair's subtle drumming styles and selfless talent.


Titling each of the nine tracks after a famous jazz drummer, the music is riveting and reflective, kind of a Zen-tinged song cycle combining African rhythms with otherworldly sonics and rock and roll backbeats. The Project began when Keltner, who is featured here on Guitar Compost (Keltner's sequenced mix of weird samples and oddball percussion), created minimal sound pieces, then gave them to Watts, who took them to Paris during the recording of Bridges to Babylon where he added drum beats, African vocals, bass and keyboards (with a little help from Jagger and Richards). The music is largely percussion-driven, but with layer upon layer of instrumentation added over Keltner's sequences, Watts and Keltner created a world beat techno-jazz feast.


"Art Blakey" captures the fury of the Jazz Messenger with tribal rhythms, whistles and garbage can percussion sounds. "Tony Williams" is a surreal dirge that recalls Tom Waits with a drunken bar band. "Airto" recreates the charged atmosphere of the virtuoso Brazilian percussionist with a pulsating groove and a breezy melody. Serengheti reggae fills "Kenny Clarke" with a skipping groove as well as farm tool sounds, and jazz trash beats. Finally, "Elvin Jones Suite" matches an African chorus over a jazz trio that climaxes in a dizzying piano workout.


A unique album from two musicians who've played it all, The Charlie Watts Jim Keltner Project is an organic musical trip to the outer limits. each have the ability to play gracefully with a really strong pulse. These days everyone is a slammer.


Charlie Watts: Jim has very good ears. You don't get asked to play with Ry Cooder if you don't have good ears. The great drummers, like Earl Palmer, are like that. Jim has a lightness. But because of the era we've come through you have to be strong. You can't sit back. We've tried. You won't get paid. of your drumming on the new album, like in "Tony Williams" has a New Orleans feel.


Watts: I firmly copied all those guys. There was a strength there. With jazz playing there is a terrific strength but it is all inside. Roy Haynes is a strong player. Elvin Jones is probably the strongest player but it is very inside. A lot of rock and roll drummers play to singers, where a lot of jazz drummers play to saxophone players. There is a hell of lot of freedom there. But when you are Irv Cottler with Frank Sinatra it is a whole different setup. Mick Jagger and Frank Sinatra hate the time-shifting. Sonny Rollins probably quite likes it because he will go with you. When you have our jobs you have to be strong and solid.


Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5