Posts Tagged ‘ABC&D of Boogie Woogie’

Gretsch Greatest Hits . . . And Hitters

Monday, April 6th, 2015

Charlie Watts: The Foundation

by Fred Gretsch

Virtually every serious music fan knows that great Gretsch drummer Charlie Watts has been the rhythmic foundation of the Rolling Stones for over fifty years. While not noted as a drumistic technician, Charlie is universally recognized as the rock that anchors “The World’s Greatest Rock ’n’ Roll Band”—and also as the subtle force that swings it. That’s why Charlie was inducted into Modern Drummer magazine’s Hall of Fame in 2006, and why he was named as one of the Top Ten World’s Best Drummers in Rolling Stone magazine’s Readers Poll in February of 2010.

Charlie’s status as a rock-drumming great is somewhat ironic, because he doesn’t play drums like a rock drummer. When he was ten years old he discovered jazz—Miles Davis and John Coltrane in particular. Soon after that he began to explore the idea of becoming a drummer. He had no formal lessons; instead he credits the great drummers he saw in London’s jazz clubs as the people who taught him how to play drums properly. He used the jazz chops he learned as a teenager to invent his own unique style of playing rock ’n’ roll. When he plays, his movements are elegant in their simplicity yet soaring in their impact. None of his gestures are wasted; all are necessary.

Bringing the sensibilities of a jazz drummer to rock music has always been at the heart of what makes Charlie one of the most respected musicians in the world. That respect has resulted in his being called on to contribute to projects by Jack Bruce, B.B. King, Alexis Korner, Leon Russell, Pete Townshend, Ronnie Lane, Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, Eric Clapton, Marianne Faithfull, AC/DC, Ben Sidran, and many more.

Charlie’s love for jazz has led him to either lead or take part in a number of musical projects of his own. In 1985 he formed the Charlie Watts Orchestra, a 32-piece band that toured the U.S. and ultimately released an album called Live at Fulham Town Hall. In 1991 he formed The Charlie Watts Quintet to pay homage to the small-group jazz that first grabbed him while he was growing up in London. Over the next five years they released a series of stellar recordings, including From One Charlie, Tribute To Charlie Parker, Warm And Tender, and Long Ago And Far Away. Next came a heartfelt collaboration with friend (and studio drumming great) Jim Keltner. Titled simply The Charlie Watts/Jim Keltner Project, it was a tribute to their favorite drummers, with each track titled after a different hero.

Charlie’s most recent side project—The ABC&D of Boogie Woogie—takes its name from the first initials of the four members of the band: Axel Zwingenberger, Ben Waters, Charlie Watts, and Dave Green. After forming in 2009, they quickly established a reputation for themselves at the forefront of boogie woogie music. In July of 2012 the band released a CD called Live In Paris, which includes a mix of originals, improvisations, and blues and boogie woogie standards. With a format of two pianos, bass, and drums, it’s about as big a departure from The Rolling Stones as you can imagine.

Charlie has also recorded with Zwingenberger and Green on a trio-format album titled The Magic Of Boogie Woogie. The three talented musicians express the swinging magic of blues and boogie woogie in full glory. It’s the first time that Charlie’ drum artistry is featured in such an intimate setting. Facts about the album—as well as some great musical clips—are available at www.boogiewoogie.net.

My wife Dinah and I have had the pleasure of meeting and spending time with Charlie on a number of occasions. In March of 2012 we had the opportunity to hear him play with The ABC&D of Boogie Woogie when the group was performing in Vienna, Austria. Later that same year we got to see and hear Charlie in his primary role, when the Rolling Stones played the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York in celebration of their fiftieth anniversary.

The location of that meeting held a special poignancy for us and for Charlie, since the Barclays Center is only a short distance away from 60 Broadway—the site of the former Gretsch factory in Brooklyn. It was in that very factory that the drumkits Charlie used in his early career with the Stones were built. The program for the Stones’ Barclays Center show, titled 50 & Counting: The Rolling Stones Live, included thanks from Charlie to Gretsch Drums. On our part, we thank Charlie for representing Gretsch drums with such artistry and grace for more than fifty years.

You can find dozens of Rolling Stones performance clips on YouTube. But to hear Charlie in particular talking about his Gretsch touring drumkit, check out http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7PZug4854sI.

Charlie discusses his own history and his love for swing music at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M1_6z9oqet8.

Charlie talks about the nature of the Rolling Stones and why he enjoys playing with the band at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qZtZ3EDPls8.

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Charlie Watts Will Boogie Down In New York This Weekend

Tuesday, June 26th, 2012

New York City music fans, you’re in for a treat!  Great Gretsch drummer Charlie Watts is coming to town with the unique jazz instrumental group The ABC&D of Boogie Woogie. The band gets its moniker from the first-name initials of its members: pianists Axel Zwingenberger and Ben Waters, drummer Charlie Watts, and bassist Dave Green.

The band will be appearing Thursday, June 28 at Midsummer Night Swing at Lincoln Center, in Damrosch Park, 10 Lincoln Center Plaza. Ticket info is available at  www.midsummernightswing.org and www.lincolncenter.org. They’ll then do a four-night stand at New York’s famed Iridium jazz club, running from Friday, June 29 through Monday, July 2, with two shows each night. The Iridium is at 1650 Broadway (at 51st Street). Ticket info for the shows there is available by phone at   (212) 582-2121, or at www.theiridium.com.

Boogie woogie music has been fascinating audiences with its youthful freshness for more than 100 years, making it uniquely appealing to new generations of enthusiastic musicians. But there’s more to it than that: Boogie woogie is one of the most important roots of modern popular music—especially rock ‘n’ roll. Charlie Watts himself has mentioned boogie woogie as a foundation of the Rolling Stones’ music.

Alex Zwingenberger is the key figure of the boogie woogie revival. He and his bandmates toured Europe this past March. They played several dates in Germany and in Austria, along with a memorable show at London’s Pizza Express Soho. Regarding that show, Times critic Clive Davis raved, “Jazz lover Charlie Watts looked more than happy to be sandwiched between the pianos of his old friend (and German boogiemeister) Axel Zwingenberger and our own Ben Waters. Watts has rightly won praise for his previous forays into bebop, but the visceral roar of a boogie-woogie riff is even more intoxicating.”

Charlie Watts with Fred Gretsch in Vienna

My wife Dinah and I had the great pleasure of visiting with Charlie and the band prior to one of their performances at the Weiner Metropole in Vienna. Charlie and I chatted about the 125th Anniversary Gretsch poster, and we had a good time looking at old Gretsch photos and catalogs dating back to 1912. Charlie then mentioned that he planned to call noted vintage drum dealer Steve Maxwell to arrange for a loaner Gretsch kit for the ABC&D of Boogie Woogie’s New York City dates. So look for that kit if you go to one of the group’s shows.

And by the way, if you do plan to go, get your tickets right away. When I saw the band play in Vienna, the club was literally packed with boogie woogie fans.  I’ve no doubt it’ll be the same in New York!

Dinah & Fred Visit With The ABC&D of Boogie Woogie

Thursday, April 19th, 2012

Enjoying A New Venture For Drum Great Charlie Watts

Virtually every serious music fan knows that great Gretsch drummer Charlie Watts has been the rhythmic foundation of the Rolling Stones for almost fifty years. But those fans may not know that while Charlie’s drumming anchors “The World’s Greatest Rock ‘N’ Roll Band,” his talents shine in other musical genres. In past years he’s led his own jazz groups, including a critically acclaimed big band. And this year he’s joined forces with German pianist Axel Zwingenberger to tour in a unique group dubbed The ABC&D of Boogie Woogie.

Alex Zwingenberger is the key figure of the boogie woogie revival. Labeled by British critics as “Boogiemeister of the world,” he’s the “A” in the group’s name. Charlie Watts is the “C.” The “B” is British pianist Ben Waters, while the “D” is bassist Dave Green. Together the band toured Europe during the month of March. They played several dates in Germany and in Austria, along with a memorable show at London’s Pizza Express Soho.

Boogie woogie music has been fascinating audiences with its youthful freshness for more than 100 years, making it uniquely appealing to new generations of enthusiastic musicians. But there’s more to it than that: Boogie woogie is one of the most important roots of modern popular music—especially rock ‘n’ roll. Charlie Watts himself has mentioned boogie woogie as a foundation of the Rolling Stones’ music. Dinah and I had the great pleasure of visiting with Charlie and the band prior to one of their late March performances in Vienna Austria. We chatted with Charlie about the 125th Anniversary Gretsch poster, and we had a good time looking at old Gretsch photos and catalogs dating back to 1912. Charlie then mentioned that he planned to call noted vintage drum dealer Steve Maxwell to arrange for a loaner Gretsch kit for the ABC&D Of Boogie Woogie’s New York City dates this coming June.

Drum enthusiasts may be interested to know that over and above all of his remarkable playing credits, Charlie is an avid drum collector. Among the interesting drums he owns are a Gretsch Birdland kit, an original Mel Lewis kit in burgundy sparkle, and a black kit similar to the early setup used by Tony Williams.

We showed the members of the band the roster for the Savannah Music Festival, which ran from March 20 to 27. Gretsch provides drums for the three-week program that showcases 100 world-class musical acts. The guys knew many of the performers either from personal experience or by reputation. Unfortunately, Charlie can’t book a year ahead for a gig like that due to the priority held by the Stones 50th Anniversary year—which will certainly include many special performances.

When The ABC&D of Boogie Woogie played in London, Times critic Clive Davis raved, “Jazz lover Charlie Watts looked more than happy to be sandwiched between the pianos of his old friend (and German boogiemeister) Axel Zwingenberger and our own Ben Waters. Watts has rightly won praise for his previous forays into bebop, but the visceral roar of a boogie-woogie riff is even more intoxicating.”

When we saw the band play at the Weiner Metropole in Vienna, the club was literally packed with boogie woogie fans. Piano players Alex and Ben performed on black Bösendorfer grands, whose size frankly overwhelmed the drumkit and the stand-up bass. Bösendorfer pianos have been hand-crafted in Vienna for over 250 years. Dave Green on stand up bass rounds out the quartet.

Vienna offers many other examples of musical history. The city is packed with concert venues and museums. The New Burg Museum currently features an exhibition of historic musical instruments—including drums that are hundreds of years old, as well as guitars made by noted 19th-century Viennese craftsman Johann Stauffer. In the early 1800s Stauffer had a young German apprentice by the name of Christian Friederich Martin. In 1833 Martin emigrated to America. He made guitars for six years in New York City before finally settling in Nazareth, Pennsylvania—where he established what we know today as the CF Martin guitar company.

In addition to playing on the ABC&D of Boogie Woogie’s live tour, Charlie Watts has also recorded with Alex Zwingenberger and Dave Green on a terrific album titled The Magic of Boogie Woogie. It features a mix of spontaneously created numbers and boogie classics, and the three talented musicians express the swinging magic of blues and boogie woogie in full glory. It’s also the first time that Charlie Watts’ drum artistry is featured in such an intimate setting. More information about the album—as well as some great musical clips—is available here.

The ABC&D of Boogie Woogie will be in New York and performing at the Lincoln Center and the Iridium Jazz Club from June 28 through July 2.  Check their tour schedule here.