Tim Ries: It's Only Rock n' Roll, But He Likes It
"I'm not thinking of myself so much as a jazz musician, but just trying to be creative in whatever music I play and they're allowing me to do that. Even on stage with them they never really restricted the horn section or me as a soloist in any way. They never said, "Solo on this tune, but you have to solo this way.' They just let me play my thing on their music. They are open to ideas and suggestions and different musicians playing their music. Even with their arrangements on stage. It no longer has to be "this is a jazz group' or "this is a rock group.' Sonny Rollins and Wayne Shorter recorded with them. They're very open to having jazz people with them."
Ries' journey began in the Detroit area, the son of a father that played trumpet and a mother who sang. Ries started on trumpet, but soon switched to saxophone. "I still kind of toyed with the trumpet and to this day I still take it out and play it, just for melodic ideas. But my chops aren't up any more," he notes. he was listening to the likes of Stan Getz, Sonny Rollins, John Coltrane, Dexter Gordon, Wayne Shorter and Charlie Parker for inspiration.
Ries was sitting in at nightclubs as a teen ("I probably wasn't very good, but they let me sit in and I learned a lot," he quips) and went to North Texas University, known for having a strong jazz program. There he encountered one of his key influences, trumpeter Donald Byrd who was at the university as an artist in residence for a time.
"I met him right away and he heard me play. He said "why don't you put together a band?' So I did all these arrangements of his music for a smallish big band, three saxophones, two trumpets, trombone, French horn, guitar, bass, drums and vocals. So we put this pretty creative band together and rehearsed and I learned a lot from him. During the songs, he would let me stretch and play. He was very willing to let me try and experiment.
"At that time I was doing a lot of transcribing of Sonny Rollins and Coltrane and Wayne Shorter. I was about 20 at the time. He said: "It's time you transcribe yourself. That's what Trane did.'
So I spent a lot of time with him. We'd go eat dinner together and lunch. He was very open to talking about music. Music was always on his mind. He always had his trumpet in his hand and he was always practicing, so it was pretty cool to have a legend like that early in my life. After that, I went right into Maynard Ferguson's band, which was segueing into another one of my heroes as well."
It wasn't long before Ries was making the New York City scene, his reputation as a quality musician getting around. He picked up work in a variety of jazz and pop settings and has found himself busy, especially with the Stones deciding to get back together.
For the foreseeable future, the Stones and his Stones project occupy his time. With Schneider's band getting a lot of acclaim, Maria has her band touring with more regularity, but Ries is going to have to miss out. But Ries is a fellow to watch, once the tour is done and the dust settles. There is more to come from this relatively young, talented and versatile musician.
"I'm disappointed I'm going to miss Maria's tour. Things are going well for her. It's probably her biggest touring year and I'm not going to be around," says Ries.
So, it's off to private jets and five-star hotels. Somebody has to do it, mate.
Rolling Stones Project (leader) (Concord, 2005)
Thought Trains (Mike Holober & The Gotham Jazz Orchestra) (Sons of Sound, 2004)
Live Licks (The Rolling Stones) (EMI, 2004)
Concert in the Garden (Maria Schneider) (ArtistShare, 2004)
Songs, Stories and Spirituals (John Patitucci) (Concord, 2003)
Real Standard Time (Prism Saxophone Quartet) (Innova, 2002)
Willow (Frank Kimbrough/Joe Locke) (Omnitone, 2001)
Black Dahlia (Bob Belden) (Blue Note, 2001)
Alternate Side (Leader) (Criss Cross, 2001)
Allegresse (Maria Schneider) (Enja, 2000)
Universal Spirits (Leader) (Criss Cross, 1998)
Daybreak (Badal Roy) (Igmod, 1997)
Imaginary Time (Leader) (Moo, 1997)
Secrets (Joey Calderazzo) (Audio Quest, 1995)
Coming About (Maria Schneider) (Enja, 1995)
When Doves Cry: The Music of Prince (Bob Belden) (Metro Blue, 1993)
Kamikiriad (Donald Fagen) (Reprise, 1993)
Evanescence (Maria Schneider) (Enja, 1992)
Big Band (Joe Henderson) (Verve, 1992)
Treasure Island (Bob Belden) (Sunnyside, 1989)
Straight To Me Heart: The Music of Sting (Bob Belden) (Blue Note, 1989)
Body and Soul (Maynard Ferguson) (Black Hawk, 1986)
Live from San Francisco (Maynard Ferguson) (Palo Alto, 1983)