Charlie Watts’ appearance on “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon” Friday night was such a rare occurrence that I’m willing to bet it’s a first for Charlie. It’s a sure bet it was a first for me — seeing the famed, but famously private Rolling Stones’ drummer on a late-night show.
But there he was, keeping the beat for his other band, a quartet called The A, B, C & D of Boogie Woogie, comprising Charlie on drums, a stand-up bass and two duelling pianists.
Watts, 71, has long nursed a side interest in jazz, while at the same time cultivating an enigmatic image as the Rolling Stones’ drummer for 50 years. “Charlie is unique. His backbeat chops like an ax, yet he has a jazzman’s sensibility,” wrote another drummer, Max Weinberg (formerly Conan O’Brien’s bandleader and first and foremost Bruce Springsteen’s drummer), in Weinberg’s book about drumming, “The Big Beat.”
It just so happens that Charlie and his band are in New York for the weekend performing at Iridium, a jazz club. Plus, we detect the unseen hand of Lorne Michaels in this booking on “Late Night.” He’s the man in charge of the show, of course, and he recently persuaded Mick Jagger to guest-host “Saturday Night Live.” Maybe Lorne possesses a similar power of persuasion where other members of the Rolling Stones are concerned.
“Charlie’s good tonight, ain’t he?” drawled Jagger on a famous Stones live album long ago. On “Fallon” Friday night, Charlie was good indeed.