Although purists might hate to admit it, popular music has always provided fodder for jazz interpretations, ever since the '40s and the Tin Pan Alley favorites that supplied chord structures for the mercurial flights of Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker. Since then, pop hits from the Beatles to Radiohead have become part of the jazz vernacular. Oddly enough, the music of the Rolling Stones has not provided a trove of exploration for jazzers outside of a '60s take on "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction" by Jimmy Smith and a later romp through "Wild Horses" by fellow organist Johnny Hammond Smith. This fact alone, plus the integrity which permeates the entire project, helps make saxophonist Tim Ries' disc-long journey through Stones territory the huge success that it is.
A member of the band's touring unit since 1999, Ries gave us a hint of his intentions with a version of "Moonlight Mile" that appeared on Alternate Side (Criss Cross, 2001). Over the course of the intervening years, he put together the arrangements for eleven tracks that make up the present album, and the diversity of mode and style is quite remarkable, from the greasy organ trio groove of "Honky Tonk Woman" to the spicy Brazilian pulse that buoys "Street Fighting Man."
A bevy of musical all-stars play prominent roles, including Keith Richards, Ron Wood, and Charlie Watts. A particularly sagacious pairing finds Norah Jones adding her smoky coolness to "Wild Horses." As for Ries, his soprano and tenor saxophone work takes a back seat to the overall character established for each chart, yet there's plenty of room for some choice solo flights. This is easily one of the best jazz discs of the year; Ries' determination in keeping this project alive through many obstacles pays off in big dividends.
Personnel: Tim Ries: saxophones; Brian Blade: drums; Bill Charlap: piano; Larry Goldings: organ; Bill
Frisell: guitar; John Patitucci: bass; Norah Jones: vocals; Charlie Watts: drums; and others.