Mid 1940s - 1950s
In the mid-1940s, bop, or bebop as it is sometimes called, erupted on the musical scene and forever changed the face of jazz music. This radical new form announced the birth of modern jazz. What made bop so radical among other things was that melody now became secondary, improvisations were based around harmonies and chords instead, and gone were the big bands in favor of smaller combos. The music became more complex and harder to assimilate. The tempos speeded up as virtuoso, extended soloing became the focus. Swing was now an old-fashioned genre besides this "hipper" genre. Because of its great inaccessibility, however, bop would never achieve wide commercial success the way swing had. Jazz became more or less an elitist music genre. Among its greatest representatives are Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, Miles Davis, Charles Mingus and Thelonius Monk.
Though the Stones' music is very far removed from bop, it represented,
and still is, Charlie's true love, and it was the music on which he trained
his drumming style. The Charlie Watts Quintet, formed in 1991, is primarily
a bop quintet.
KENNY CLARKE (1914-1985)
Born in Pittsburgh, Clarke is perhaps the most important drummer in the development of bop, developing the technique of using the ride cymbal to keep the time. For most of the 1930s and '40s, Clarke played in swing big bands and combos, such as those of Edgar Hayes, Louis Armstrong and Benny Carter. His most significant work came after the end of World War II, when he started playing with Dizzy Gillespie and then in the '50s formed the influential Modern Jazz Quartet. Thereafter Clarke moved to France where he remained active on the European jazz scene for the rest of his life.
Though he has many heroes, Kenny Clarke is Charlie's
favorite all-time drummer. Charlie never tires of praising him. A track
on 2000's Jim Keltner/Charlie Watts Project naturally bears his
MILES DAVIS (1926-1991)
Miles Davis towers above all other jazz artists of the 20th century, with the exception perhaps of Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington. His musical path charted the evolution of modern jazz.
Born in Illinois, trumpeter Miles Davis was younger than Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker yet he managed to start playing with them on a regular basis in 1945, when he wasn't even 20 yet. Not as technically gifted a trumpet player as Gillespie, he nevertheless had already developed a style all his own, which put the emphasis on timing, mood and choosing the right notes instead of speed and agility.
Davis' career and greatness, however, is in part due to the constant evolutions he underwent in his career and his ability to choose great, still-to-be-discovered performers in his distinctive bands. In 1949, with his album Birth of the Cool, he helped usher in cool jazz, a new subgenre of bop. In the early 1950s, he was already on to something else, playing with players such as Sonny Rollins (who would eventually play with the Stones in 1981) and Art Blakey a music which prefigured the arrival of hard bop. Davis had a heroin habit in those days, which he kicked in 1954.
The second half of the 1950s were possibly Davis' greatest years, and he reached much success as he delved deeper into hard bop and modal jazz, putting together ensembles that included John Coltrane and Cannonball Adderley, and creating classic albums like Round About Midnight, Miles Ahead and Kind of Blue. In the 1960s, Davis continued to evolve, getting into soul jazz, and eventually into free or avant-garde jazz. His players included greats like Tony Williams, Herbie Hancock, Branford Marsalis, and Wayne Shorter (who also wound up playing with the Stones in 1997). In the early 1970s, Davis stunned many by getting into jazz fusion and jazz rock with the classic Bitches Brew and its follow-ups. Another period of drug taking led to his retirement in 1975, before he came back in the 1980s. He continued playing until his death in 1991.
A giant of bop and hard bop, Davis is a hero of Charlie Watts' who, even with the Stones, has shared Davis' playing philosophy of "less is more". The Charlie Watts Quintet's 1992 Tribute to Charlie Parker with Strings includes covers of Davis-Parker collaborations.
I love listening to stars like Louis Armstrong, or Miles Davis. These are the people who do most for me.
Anything by Miles Davis or Charlie Parker (puts me in a good mood).
DIZZY GILLESPIE (1917-1993)
Born in South Carolina, Gillespie, apart from being one of the all-time great jazz trumpet players, was innovative and significant for successive periods and genres of jazz music. In the 1940s, he headed one of the greatest jump blues and swing big band of the era. But at the same time he teamed up with Charlie Parker and other players to basically invent modern jazz with the first bop recordings, playing in a harmonically complex style which was ahead of every other trumpet player.
Late in the '40s, Gillespie also basically invented Afro-Cuban jazz, bringing in Latin elements into a jazz style that was becoming more and more rhythmically complex. Though less revolutionary in the 1950s and beyond, Gillespie continued recording and performing with big bands and smaller combos, playing with many other jazz greats.
With Parker, Davis and others, Gillespie was part of those recordings from which Charlie was formed early on as a jazz musician. Older than the other Stones, Bill, who was already turning 20 when rock and roll hit the scene, could also appreciate Gillespie's music.
(T)hough I'm not really interested in jazz, I do have some nice memories of some records by Dizzy Gillespie at the time and by a band led by Kenny Graham called the Afro Cubists. I was in my late teens, I guess.
ROY HAYNES (1926- )
Born in Massachusetts, drummer Roy Haynes played with Lester Young among others, before joining Charlie Parker's band in 1949. Less recognized than many of his his contemporaries, Haynes nevertheless played an important role in the development of bop. In the 1950s and 60s, he performed with Stan Getz, Thelonious Monk and John Coltrane occasionally, replacing Elvin Jones when he wasn't available. Haynes' musical journey, then, took him from bop to hard bop. In later years, he played with Pat Metheney and Chick Corea. Still playing today, Haynes has performed with just about every jazz great in the second half of the century, in addition to fronting his own band and releasing his own records.
Haynes is one of Charlie's 5 or 6 favorite drummers. He named a track of his 2000 Charlie Parker/Jim Keltner Project album after him.
I know Roy Haynes... Roy Haynes is a wonderful player... All the drummers that... I admire - all the records I have of Roy Haynes, for example -are ALL rhythm records. He did the Coltrane thing, and he did some wonderful records with Roland Kirk - Out Of The Afternoon and all those. It's not the drum solos I like; it's the rhythm section drummer. Max Roach is another one like that, a phenomenal player.
CHARLES MINGUS (1922-1979)
Born in Arizona, bassist Charlie Mingus is one of the great jazz geniuses of the mid-20th century. He perfected a highly innovative style of playing which included tempo changes and was unafraid to experiment with dissonance, and was an important figure in the development of bop and hard bop.
Mingus worked in the 1940s with Louis Armstrong and Lionel Hampton's bands, then in the early 1950s moved to New York where he began working with artists like Art Tatum and Stan Getz. In 1952 he formed a jazz label with Max Roach which promoted bop. Mingus' own music was becoming more and more innovative and groundbreaking, and from the mid '50s to the mid '60s he recorded his most groundbreaking work. A hard man to work with because of his temper and eccentricities, Mingus stopped playing in 1966, only to resume in the 1970s because of financial difficulties. He died of Lou Gehrig's disease.
Like Parker and Miles Davis, Mingus' work, at the forefront of bop and the innovations of hard bop, are much admired by Charlie. In 1990, Keith and Charlie took time off the Stones' European tour to contribute to a Charles Mingus tribute album. Keith played on Mingus' classic Oh Lord, Don't Let Them Drop that Atomic Bomb On Me.
(On our first American tour) I went to every single jazz club. I remember going to Birdland and seeing Charlie Mingus with his 13-piece orchestra. That to me was America - the rest I didn't give a shit about.
THELONIOUS MONK (1917-1982)
Born in North Carolina and raised in New York
City, pianist Thelonious Monk was branded by the audiences and his peers
as an eccentric for most of his career. An innovate musician even among
bop players, by the late 1940s he had forged an adventurous style which
others found hard to play with, even players such as Charlie
Parker and Dizzy Gillespie. Monk was
really a transitional figure between bop and the further innovations of
bop, and he only started attaining recognition in the late 1950s. He
spent the 1960s touring until he retired in 1973 because of mental illness.
His classic compositions include Blue Monk and Round Midnight.
CHARLIE PARKER (1920-1955)
Charlie Parker has frequently been stated by Charlie Watts as his all-time musical idol.
Born in Kansas City, Parker was an incredibly influential saxophonist who basically created "modern jazz" with other luminaries such as Dizzy Gillespie. Starting out in big band jazz, Parker helped create bebop (or bop), which included much greater freedom from the melody of a song by inventing new counter-melodies and chordal structures. Gillespie and Parker teamed up in 1945 and in the following years created a series of recordings that revolutionized the jazz world. The young Miles Davis and Max Roach were some of the players he played with during that time. A heroin addict, Parker was also an alcoholic who was hospitalized for mental breakdown and tried to commit suicide several times. His damaged health led to his death at the age of 34.
At the peak of Stonesmania in 1964, Charlie Watts published an illustrated book for children he had written, based on Parker's life, entitled Ode to a High-Flying Bird.
When Charlie finally released a jazz record in 1986, as head of the
Charlie Watts Orchestra, though the music was dedicated to swing and big
band jazz, nevertheless they included an adaptation of Parker's Scrapple
from the Apple. Finally, in 1991, he formed a bop quintet, the Charlie
Watts Quintet, who recorded a Charlie Parker tribute album called From
One Charlie, in conjunction with the re-release of his 1964 book. The
following year, the band released another Parker tribute album, called
to Charlie Parker with Strings, which again featured songs associated
with Parker (such as Cool Blues and Bluebird) as well as
MAX ROACH (1924- )
Born in North Carolina, Max Roach was a jazz drummer who, like Kenny Clarke, helped revolutionize jazz drumming in the 1940s and 1950s, moving away from swing and helping to create styles such as bop, hard bop and post-bop. His playing emphasized cymbals rather the bass drum, playing around with time signatures and innovating and experimenting in a number of ways, giving more freedom to the jazz ensemble as a whole. Roach played early on in his career with people like Duke Ellington and Dizzy Gillespie. In the late '40s, he played on a number of Charlie Parker's classic recordings of the era, as well as those of artists like Charlie Mingus and Miles Davis. In the 1960s, he became a political activist, then became more interested in avant-garde jazz. Roach is still performing today.
Although Charlie Watts expresses an affection for many types of jazz, the Charlie Parker-Miles Davis-Charlie Mingus period of the '40s and '50s, instigating the creation of modern jazz, seems to hold particular affection for him. Max is another of Charlie's all-time favorite drummers. He has frequently cited his admiration of drummers like Max Roach and Kenny Clarke. He naturally titled one of the tracks on the new (2000) Charlie Watts/Jim Keltner Project album after him.
Someone like Max Roach... well, he's a real idol of mine. Maybe only another drummer can understand exactly what he is doing and how well he does it.
Back to Search by Music Genre Menu
Back to Main Page