Michael Deeds: Rolling Stones touring members to jazz up Boise

mdeeds@idahostatesman.comOctober 25, 2013 

Tim Ries vividly remembers sitting in an airplane waiting for Rolling Stones drummer Charlie Watts to return to his seat.

It was only the second tour for the Stones’ saxophonist-keyboardist. He’d already been bold (or nuts) enough to envision and record his own jazz versions of three Stones songs, which had received the iconic band’s blessing. But here he was on that L.A.-bound plane, peeking up toward Watts, who had decided to mosey up front to ask Keith Richards if he wanted to play guitar on a Ries album of Stones jazz.

Keith. Freaking. Richards.

“All of a sudden, Keith and Charlie come back with Ronnie Wood,” Ries recalls in a phone interview from his New Jersey home. “And I thought, ‘Oh God, I’m going to be fired.’ ”

Richards and Watts told him they were game. “I’ll do it, too!” Wood chimed in.

“All of a sudden,” Ries explains, “it started taking on another life.”

Ries’ first Rolling Stones Project CD, released in 2005, didn’t just feature three actual Stones and multiple Stones backing-band members. Primarily an instrumental jazz album, it also had guest appearances from singers Norah Jones and Sheryl Crow, as well as jazz guitarists John Scofield and Bill Frisell.

The live version of The Rolling Stones Project — a quintet including Ries and fellow Stones touring-band members Bernard Fowler (vocals) and Darryl Jones (bass) — will perform a two-hour concert Saturday, Nov. 2, at the Egyptian Theatre in Boise. The BSU Jazz Ensemble will join part of the show.

If you’re a diehard Stones fan, it’s a no-brainer. You need to go. Ries has been with the Stones since 1999. Jones for almost 20 years. Fowler nearly 25.

Ries doesn’t make promises to fans hoping for a replication of the way they perform classics such as “Wild Horses” and “Paint It Black” during world tours with the Stones. But the pride and sheer pleasure he takes in this innovative side-excursion is evident.

“I did this because I love (Stones) music, and it let me do it in the way I’d arrange my music,” says Ries, who studied under the late saxophonist Michael Brecker and has taught extensively at colleges and universities.

“Had I played those three tracks for them, and Keith and Mick were like, ‘Naaaa,’ I would have gladly just shelved it or whatever,” Ries says. “But not only did they say it was cool, they played on it.”

Jagger jumped in to contribute to the second, world music-influenced Rolling Stones Project album, 2008’s “Stones World.” Taking advantage of an international Stones tour, Ries enlisted musicians worldwide.

“It was one of those CDs that you couldn’t really put together if you wanted to in your wildest dreams,” Ries says. “Because there were 75 people — singers, dancers, from 16 different countries. Nine different languages. It was like a dream.”

Ries realizes that his wide-ranging influences might frighten a few Stones fans. After all, it’s only rock ’n’ roll, and we like it, right?

And jazz? “It’s a four-letter word,” Ries says, laughing.

“That’s why we didn’t call it jazz. I just called it The Rolling Stones Project,” he says. “Because really, it has all the elements of jazz, but it all comes from the same place. It’s all coming from blues. And it’s just a different slant on it. And we will play some rock versions of the tunes as well.”

After seeing a Rolling Stones Project show — which features Fowler’s exceptional singing on the vast majority of songs — Stones fans often become jazz converts, Ries says, telling him, “I’ve never been to a jazz club, but if this is jazz, I like it.”

“So that makes me feel really good,” he says.

“People will definitely recognize the tunes as Stones music,” Ries adds. “And then they’re going to hear some really adventurous playing.”

• 8 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 2, Egyptian Theatre, 700 W. Main St., $20-$30, www.egyptiantheatre.net.

Michael Deeds’ column runs Fridays in Scene and Sundays in Life. He co-hosts “The Other Studio” at 9 p.m. Sundays on 94.9 FM The River and appears Thursdays on Channel 6 News.

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