Kenny “Blues Boss” Wayne – Blues from Chicago to Paris | Album Review

Kenny “Blues Boss” Wayne – Blues from Chicago to Paris

Stony Plain Records SPCD 1443

17 songs – 70 minutes

One of the most decorated bluesmen based in Canada, Kenny “Blues Boss” Wayne delivers a big tip of the hat to two of his inspirations, frequent playing partners Memphis Slim and Willie Dixon, and putting his own touch on 17 tunes of their compositions, ranging from some familiar standards to minor pleasers. It’s a wall-to-wall treat for anyone who loves powerful, two-fisted old-school piano.

A three-time Living Blues magazine keyboard player of the year who’s captured a Juno Award – the Great North’s equivalent to the Grammy – and seven Maple Blues Awards, too, Kenny’s an American ex-pat who was born in Spokane, Wash. His mother planted his interest in the blues through her love of Nat King Cole, Fats Domino and Little Willie John, and the family moved to New Orleans before settling in Los Angeles.

Gathering further inspiration from keyboard giants Erroll Garner, Ray Charles, Charles Brown, Big Joe Turner and Floyd Dixon, Wayne became a fixture in the Southern California music scene in the ‘60s and ‘70s, primarily working alongside top pop and rock artists. Now 77 and a member of the Boogie Woogie Piano Hall of Fame, he’s been based out of Vancouver, B.C., since the ‘80s.

This is the 14th album in Kenny’s solo career, which began in 1995 with Alive and Loose, and follows the well-received Go, Just Do It as his sixth on the Stony Plain imprint. He’s in fine voice in this 70-minute set that comes across with cocktail lounge sensibilities and timeless appeal. It was recorded at Arc House Studio in Kelowna, B.C. Drummer Joey DiMarco and bassist Russell Jackson (B.B. King, Alicia Keys) provide the only backing.

The uptempo “Rock and Rolling This House” opens the action with call-and-response vocals from Kenny and Russell, breathing new life into a tune Slim wrote and he and Willie first recorded at the Trois Mailletz club in Paris in 1962, an era that produced many of the songs you’ll hear here. It flows into a run of six Dixon numbers that begin with “The Way She Loves a Man,” which originated in the same set.

Kenny displays his mastery of both hands on the ballad, “New Way to Love,” which follows, before a delightful take on “Reno Blues,” which features light runs on the 88s and Jackson doubling on the chorus. The uptempo shuffle, “African Hunch,” follows atop a percussive rhythm pattern before yielding to the sprightly song of desire, “Just You and I.”

Slim’s familiar 1960 classic, “Messin’ Around (with the Blues),” slows the pace before three more Dixon numbers, beginning with the stop-time pleaser, “One More Time.” The action heats up again from the opening notes of “Somebody Tell That Woman” before Wayne and Jackson share the mic for Slim’s “Stewball,” a standard that pays tribute to a racehorse with iron-gray hair, and they team again for   Willie’s “After While,” which opens with a brief, but pleasing run on the upright bass, the unhurried “Got You on My Mind” and the uptempo “Don’t Let the Music Die.”

Slim’s “Pigalle Love” precedes Dixon’s familiar “I Ain’t Gonna Be No Monkey Man” before “I Got a Razor” and “Wish Me Well” bring the action to a close.

Available through most major retailers, Blues from Paris to Chicago will put a smile on the face of anyone who loves traditional blues piano.

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