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On Wednesday night, saxophonist Tim Ries will be onstage with the
Rolling Stones at TCF Bank Stadium, reprising a role he has played on
Stones tours since 1999.
On Tuesday night at the Dakota Jazz Club in Minneapolis, Ries
"warmed up" for the big stadium gig by performing two sets with the jazz
combo he calls Band 2. A Stones sideman and arranger for the past 15
years, Ries has recorded two CDs of Stones tunes done in a jazz style,
and has previously performed at the Dakota.
Stones' drummer Charlie Watts, celebrating his 74th birthday at
the Dakota, joined the band at the beginning of the second set, sitting
in on "Ruby Tuesday."
The common element in Stones music and jazz is, of course, the
blues. The harmonic structures of Stones tunes tend to be simpler than
those of the Beatles (to name another rock group whose tunes jazz
players have adopted for their own use), but the Stones' always-present,
bluesy undercurrent makes their music well suited for jazz treatments.
Tuesday night's version of Band 2 featured several top Twin
Cities musicians: tenor saxophonist Pete Whitman (a former college
roommate and longtime friend of Ries), drummer Kevin Washington (like
Ries, a Detroit native), guitarist Cory Wong, upright bassist Gary
Raynor and pianist Laura Caviani.
The opening set included a couple of those arrangements, starting
with a slowly unfolding instrumental that gradually revealed itself to
be "You Can't Always Get What You Want." After playing his soprano sax
to help Whitman and Wong state the melody, the versatile Ries moved over
to provide backing on the grand piano.
Then, spectacular vocalist Bernard Fowler, a Stones backup singer
since 1989, entered as Raynor kicked off a walking bass line that
developed into a fingerpoppin' blues shuffle version of "Honky Tonk
After that, Fowler unleashed his impressive vibrato with an
octave-leaping rendition of the Stones' "Sticky Fingers"-era ballad
"Wild Horses." Ries provided melodic enhancement on soprano sax and Wong
added some ethereal Bill Frisell-style chording. Fowler capped the tune
with an emphatic vocal flourish that brought down the house.
The set also included one Ries original, an instrumental jazz ballad called "As I Am."
During the first set, another noted rock drummer sat in with the
band: former Journey drummer Steve Smith, who's appearing at the Dakota
Wednesday night with his jazz combo Vital Information.
Smith laid down the beat for a swing through the old John Coltrane/Duke Ellington piece "Take the Coltrane."
Then Ries brought up another arena rocker from the audience --
Stones (and former Allman Brothers) keyboardist Chuck Leavell, who sang
and played a blues-spiked rendition of Hoagy Carmichael's ode to
Leavell's home state, "Georgia." Leavell also led the band through a
tune from his (1976-81) days as leader of the Southern rock band Sea
Dan Emerson is a freelance writer and musician in Minneapolis.
Rolling Stones drummer Charlie Watts sat in with Band 2 at the Dakota
Jazz Club. Band 2 features Tim Ries (saxophone) and Bernard Fowler
(vocals). Ries and Fowler are currently touring with The Rolling Stones.
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