In 1999, when Tim Ries made his first tour playing saxophone and keyboards for the Rolling Stones, it was just becoming commonplace for hard-core jazz folk to deploy “new standards” — industry parlance for the popular music that formed the soundtrack of the baby boom and subsequent generations in place of the iconic contents of the Great American Songbook, filled with II-V-I chord progressions and jazz-like harmonies — as raw materials for improvising and interpretation. Ries made his own contribution to this movement in 2005, with the Rolling Stones Project (Concord), achieved in five separate recording sessions. Drawing upon the immersive experience of rehearsing, playing, observing, and reflecting upon hundreds of Stones songs, Ries reimagined ten of them, using as personnel three of the Stones, pop stars Sheryl Crowe and Norah Jones, Stones backup singers Bernard Fowler and Lisa Fischer, and jazz guitar heroes Bill Frisell and John Scofield. On the follow-up, Stones World (Sunnyside), recorded at various waystations on the Stones’ 2005-7 “Bigger Bang” world tour, Ries ups the ante, tailoring the arrangements to reflect the grooves, meters, harmonies, and phrasing of the ethnic and national styles encountered, while remaining true to the melodic essence of each piece. Spanish dancer Sara Baras treats “Jumping Jack Flash” as a flamenco; Eddie Palmieri and sonero Hector Oliveros salsify “Under My Thumb”; the Tuareg group Tidawt Afro-funks the formerly reggae-ish “Hey Negrita,” which sports an ebullient harmonica solo from Mick Jagger and lap steel guitar from Ron Wood; singer Ana Moura transforms “Brown Sugar” and “No Expectations” into vehicles for fado; French rapper Fe joins Fatima El Shibli, Magos Herrera, and Lisa Fischer to bring a one-world attitude to “Salt of the Earth”; and Fowler imparts a soulman sensibility to “Miss You.” Lest you forget who the leader is, Ries himself blows a succession of informed tenor and soprano saxophone solos, propelled throughout by Charlie Watts’s endlessly crisp, buoyant, jazzy beats.
About the Author
Ted Panken writes extensively about jazz for various publications, including DownBeat and Jazziz, as well as the website www.jazz.com. He's presented it on WKCR-FM in New York City since 1985. He won the 2007 ASCAP Deems Taylor Award for his article "Smalls Universe," published by DownBeat.