Speaking of Charlie Watts (you didn’t think I’d let his death pass without saying something, did you?), I think Jack Hamilton over at Slate gets it exactly right: Watts was “a drummer whose whole musicality…vastly exceeded the sum of its parts….”
Even though I think Watts’s jazz chops are a bit overstated, it’s apparent how much he was influenced by the genre in the way he could set—and hold—an unmistakable groove. In other words, while I doubt he could swing as hard as, say, Jimmy Cobb, Watts understood that his role was as much about creating a feeling as it was keeping time. And that’s not a very rock ‘n’ roll approach to drumming.
“You can’t learn to play music like this,” writes Hamilton. “You’re born with those ears or you’re not. No one will ever play drums like Charlie Watts, the perfect drummer in what was, once upon a time, the perfect band.”