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Rolling Stones' Charlie Watts shines a light on 50th anniversary while playing with jazz band

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NEW YORK, N.Y. - Even though he's played in the same rock 'n' roll band for nearly 50 years, Charlie Watts still prefers playing jazz.

The Rolling Stones drummer learned how to play it by imitating his favourite jazz players as a teenager.

So during his breaks with the Stones, Watts has played jazz, not rock, and that legacy continues with his latest venture, The A, B, C, and D of Boogie Woogie. The quartet recently released "Live in Paris" from one of their shows during a recent 10-show run at the club Duc des Lombards.

Watts recently spoke to The Associated Press about the project, as well as what's being planned for the Rolling Stones' 50th anniversary next year.

AP: Tell me about the comfort level of this band.

Watts: I've known Dave (Green) for 65 years. We've lived next door to each other. He's always in bands that I've been in besides the Rolling Stones. Axel (Zwingenberger) I've known since '80-something. And Ben (Waters) I've known for three years, but I've known of him from many years before that because he's a progeny — his aunt and uncle were friends of a guy called Ian Stewart who used to play piano with us. And I used to play in one of Stew's bands in this county called Dorcet. That's how I know his aunt and uncle. And I know of Ben because he loved Stew and tried to emulate his playing.

AP: Is there a big difference in playing drums in a jazz band from playing in a rock band?

Watts: I don't play power drums; they just turn the knobs up now. Yes, it's much more physical to play rock 'n' roll, especially with the volume that you play at — that they play at, they being guitar players as opposed to playing this with a tenor saxophone player or trumpet player. The volume is all the same, particularly with the A, B, C, and D of Boogie Woogie, obviously two are piano players. To play well with a piano player, you have to be able to play — there's a lot of control needed. And you're playing almost acoustically.

AP: So what's next for you?

Watts: I think we're going to be doing a lot of 50th anniversary stuff, we, the Rolling Stones.

AP: Like a tour or an album?

Watts: No, just other things. Fifty years of things. A documentary, well, they haven't approved it yet. I haven't seen it, but we worked on that earlier this year. Books and things like that. There will be other things that the 50 years mean. And touring, we haven't gotten that far. We're still talking about the colour of the back page of the book, so we'll see what happens.

AP: Fifty years? Marriages don't often last that long.

Watts: Actually mine lasted 49 years. ... When I joined the Rolling Stones ... I thought it would last a few months, because that's what bands last. I'd been in a lot of bands up until then that last two or three months. Then it became three years. I thought that's it, it won't. ... We're very fortunate. One of the ways that it lasted so long because we have a huge fan base, and I don't mean that in a conceited way, but it is that. ... With the Rolling Stones it's people saying, "It's the fans," people saying, "Yes, you should." And indeed it's us saying, "We'll play New Haven," and if people come, you know, that keeps it going on and on.




John Carucci covers entertainment for The Associated Press. Follow him at

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