Blues & Rhythm
Blues All Day Long
Q: Why did you pick Jimmy Rogers? Did you meet him/ hear him when you were growing up in Chicago?
A: I was enjoying the success of my most recent book I had written—a biography of the jazz guitar legend Charlie Christian—and I was sort of waiting and looking for a really good topic for my next project to tackle that would keep my interest. If you want to write truly good books, you have to find subjects that will ultimately sustain you throughout long periods, because—if it’s a rich topic, and explored thoroughly—it will more than likely take quite a while to compose. I was waiting for the muse to appear. And eventually it did—in the form of Cordero Lane—the grandson of Jimmy Rogers. He was playing third trombone in one of my big bands at Kansas State University in Manhattan Kansas, where I am Director of the Jazz Studies Program. Cordero was always a friendly student who worked hard at being a good trombonist and enjoyed being a jazz musician. We always had a great student-teacher relationship, and I always looked out for him. One day, he casually walked into my office after rehearsal and announced, “you DO know who my grandfather is, right?” I had no idea what he was getting at. “No,” I replied, “what are you talking about?” “He said, “My grandfather is Jimmy Rogers!” I just stared at him, then blinked. “You mean, THE Jimmy Rogers, who played with Muddy Waters?!” I couldn’t believe it. I demanded that he call his mother right then and there from my office to prove that he wasn’t lying to me—it didn’t make sense to me at the time because Cordero’s last name wasn’t Rogers and I hadn’t put the two ends together. I didn’t know Jimmy’s real last name because, first of all, they didn’t list Jimmy Rogers on any of the Muddy Waters singles or the album sleeves at the time, and even if they did, it wouldn’t have been listed as “Lane,” since his stage name of “Rogers” was his stepfather’s last name, as I later found out. Anyway, he called his mother, who is Jacqueline Lane, one of Jimmy’s daughters. I got on the phone with her and she confirmed Cody’s statement, and I just about fell on the floor. I knew what was coming next—I had to do this book, especially since no one else had pursued that avenue yet. The lane was wide open, so to speak. This was somewhere around the spring of 2007.
Q: How did you go about researching the book?
A: The first thing I did was fly back home to Chicago, and I brought Cody with me. As it turns out, my house is only three blocks away from where Jimmy Rogers lived—I had no idea! We both lived on the Southwest Side of Chicago, and Cody’s family of aunts and uncles—Jimmy’s son JD Mosley and daughter Angela Lane—were still living in the house on Honore Avenue, and my family is still there on Laflin Street a few blocks away. So we flew in from Manhattan, and I got a couple of my brothers to be my “assistants” as I made phone calls from my mom’s kitchen and lined up one interview after another and went all around Chicago to meet in person the people who had played in Jimmy’s bands over the years. Then I went to Jimmy’s house and met two of his kids—Angela and J.D.—and I interviewed them. Then I came back to Manhattan and interviewed Jimmy D. Lane, Jimmy’s oldest son, who is a fantastic blues/rock guitarist himself! My wife and I drove down to Salina, Kansas, which is only less than an hour away from our house in Manhattan. Then we went to Topeka, Kansas where I interviewed Cody’s mom Jackie Lane and her sister Deborah Lane. After that I made calls all across the country and established musical connections globally, and received emails from all around the world when the word got out that I was doing the book. Everything was lining up perfectly. People called and wrote from everywhere, sent me pictures, all kinds of material.
Q: Are there discoveries about him that aren't in the book that you would have liked to put in?
A: Oh, tons of stuff! In fact, they made me cut quite a bit of material out because the book was too long! As it stands now, the manuscript is more than 400 pages, I would have loved to include more stories and anecdotes. The editing process can be extremely painful to an artist’s ego, but it’s quite a necessary evil when you’re trying to carve the work down so that you can deliver the highest quality material. But it really hurts to know that you’re sitting on good stuff that may not ever see the light of day. The other thing that happened was, well after I had called it a “wrap,” lots of rare and unreleased material came to me from numerous sources after the publishers and I had said, “cut!” and I wished that stuff had made it under the wire—I actually considered doing a second book!
Q: As a musician, do you feel Jimmy has influenced your approach at all?
A: The truth was, I had grown up listening to all of the classic hits that Jimmy and Muddy had recorded for Chess Records, because I was lucky enough to be born under the right set of circumstances—a perfect storm, so to speak. I was born right there on the West Side of Chicago at 2713 W. Jackson Street; I was also born in 1961, which was right near the tail end of the great Post-War blues era; and my father was an amazing blues harmonica player who could play Jimmy Reed, Sonny Boy Williamson and Little Walter solos note-for-note, by ear. He had all the great blues records and played them all the time since the day I was born—he even knew Little Walter and was drinking buddies with him! To this day I can sing damn near every guitar and harmonica solo on most of those Chess Records from memory. And as far as guitar, goes—of course! I can still play note-for-note the Muddy and Jimmy solos, along with all the Hubert Sumlin, Otis Rush, Magic Sam, Buddy Guy, B.B. and Albert King, Chuck Berry, all the classic Chicago blues guitar repertoire. I learned it all by ear, like my dad did with the blues harp players. My dad bought me my first guitar and even taught me my first blues guitar riffs from Muddy Waters and Jimmy Reed songs.
Q: I know you have written about Charlie Christian - do you see any links between Charlie and Jimmy?
A: For me, the thing that connected them was the idea that they both had careers that blossomed at crucial crossroads in the history of blues. Charlie came along right as the classic big band and swing era of Duke Ellington and Count Basie and Benny Goodman was taking shape throughout the Southwest region of the country during early WWII, and Jimmy came along during the Post-War industrial revolution in the Midwest that served as the impetus from black southerners to move North and jump-start the urban blues genre. As guitarists, they both played secondary roles, but were crucial in making the “main attraction” look good—Charlie most certainly helped Benny create his sound, Jimmy definitely helped Muddy become famous. While Charlie was a pioneer of the single-note lead solo style, Jimmy became a pioneer of the single-note “second line” to Muddy Waters guitar—many times he wove it so closely to Waters that you couldn’t separate them with your ear! It became a real art form unto itself, and only the best Chicago-style blues guitarists can imitate it accurately. The double-twining of them was what made that sound unique on those early classic recordings, and it’s practically impossible to recreate that sound without two guitars. Charlie Christian and Jimmy Rogers both carved out special spaces in the annals of jazz and blues guitar history, and I’m proud to be able to tell their individual stories.
Q: Most blues books are written by white Americans, as an African-American musician do you feel you bring a different perspective to the blues, and the book?
A: Well, I think my particular contribution emanates from the position of one who is specifically qualified to write from the unique perspective of being an African-American, an accomplished jazz guitarist, a born-and bred- South Side and West Side Chicago bluesman, a full-time music professor and scholarly researcher at a major university, a recording artist, and an accomplished writer. I think my skill set is perfect for the kind of books I write.
Q: Anything else you want to say?
A: I just want to say that I feel so lucky and honored to be the one who has the privilege of offering the first book ever written on the great bluesman Jimmy Rogers. His great body of work and contribution to the blues is substantial; his acknowledgment is well overdue, and I believe this book will restore his legacy to its rightful place: Not just sitting in the shadows of the obvious greatness of Muddy Waters, but standing alone in its own shining lights where all can see him for what and who he was. Jimmy Rogers was a gifted, passionate and soulful bluesman of class and dignity, who had his own voice during the entire time he played the perfect supporting role for another legend. I think all the blues fans will love reading this book. And my sincere thanks to you, Norman Darwen, for asking me to participate in this interview!
Master guitarist Wayne Goins’ new release reveals a musician of deep feeling, unassailable generosity, and exquisite taste. Chronicles of Carmela is, in fact, the most breathtakingly beautiful new jazz release I’ve heard in years. Goins composed, arranged, and produced all eleven songs and gave his musicians plenty of room to improvise. On the opening tracks, Goins, tenor saxophonist Craig Treinen, and pianist Bill Wingfield conjure images of Wes Montgomery and/or young George Benson sitting in with Atlantic-era John Coltrane and McCoy Tyner. To put this another way: If you play the ten-minute ballad “Dale’s Dream” and your main squeeze doesn’t respond, it’s all over, Jack. Set to a driving groove, “Why Call It Amnesia” builds to a brilliant octaves-and-single-lines guitar solo. “Deborah at Dawn” is a case-study in how to build to a climax and finesse the resolution. “Samba de Solo” cooks. In other highlights, “Kenny’s Hang” pays tribute to Kenny Burrell, and “Choppin’ Wood” delivers a knowing nod to Count Basie’s master rhythm guitarist Freddie Green. Goins and gang end the album on a very high note with “Amnesia (Slight Return).”
In addition to being an outstanding composer and guitarist, Dr. Goins is Director of the Jazz Studies at Kansas State University and co-author of A Biography of Charlie Christian, Jazz Guitar’s King of Swing, which is, without doubt, the best study of Christian yet published. And Carmela, by the way, is the name of his Gibson electric guitar, lucky girl she.
Wayne Goins’ first Little Apple release since 2006, Chronicles of Carmela is a showcase not only of Dr. Goins’ guitar and writing chops. Carmela is Wayne’s guitar, and he says in the liners that he drew inspiration from her to write the music in this record (all from his pen). And a varied lot it is, from the bossa nova of “Jasmine’s Day”, the Basie-Hefti groove of “Choppin’ Wood” (for Freddie Green), the balladry of “Dale’s Dream”, to soulful outings like “Why Call It Amnesia” and “Deborah at Dawn” (which could have been written for The Manhattans), to the easy shuffling “Waylayed” and the kick-butt “Chi-Town” shuffle of “Sink or Swim”. There are really ten different strong grooves in this disc.
Carmela herself has this singing tone, and Goins’ sound has a long finish to it that makes his single note runs sound much like a horn. Or, he can play Wes Montgomery octaves, as he gets into on the “Choppin’” opener. Wayne does indeed invoke the Green comping here behind Treinen, Wingfield, and Gordon solos. Wingfield caught my attention quickly, my immediate thought was that I could listen to him play all night but I’ll settle for the near eighty minutes contained here.
There are times when you might briefly hear something familiar in one of these compositions. “Dale’s Dream” strikes an “Isn’t It Romantic” opening, for example, but there proves to be more harmonic tension here. Wingfield proves the expert accompanist here, deftly complementing Goins’ lines, and then Treinen’s, as if they were vocalists. Nice brushwork from Leifer, too.
From “Why Call It Amnesia” until the end of the disc, I heard a lot of Stanley Turrentine in Treinen’s blowing (and that’s a good thing). It’s that soul, the vocal quality that Turrentine had, and Treinen has, too. This track has a nice backbeat, and DeVan’s organ fits right it with this groove. There’s some Wes in the Goins octaves here, this is a sound that would be welcome in my bar any night.
“Deborah at Dawn” is a soul ballad, and Everette DeVan is back again to help. Halfway through, though, the tempo shifts up, and Treinen, Wingfield, and Goins soar. Gordon has a walking intro on “Kenny’s Hang” (the Kenny is Burrell), with a tricky “hang” at the end of each eight bar phrase. Leifer’s drums open the “Samba Solo”, which is a blues with a straight four release. I know you’ll look for familiar pieces in “Waylayed”, starting with a little “Equinox” in the melody, but it’s not a blues, more of an enjoyable Timmons groove. DeVan really gets a chance to dig hard on “Sink or Swim”. Goins calls it a hard shuffle, and it’s a tune that these guys slay the crowd with.
For his supporting band, Goins mostly chose his musical associates from Kansas State University (where he is Director of Jazz Studies) and Kansas City. Pianist Bill Wingfield recently retired after a long tenure as a piano accompanist at KSU, and bassist Gordon Lewis is currently a bass instructor on the KSU faculty. Saxophonist Craig Treinen has a long history of playing in the Kansas City and Topeka areas, including playing lead alto sax in the Boulevard Big Band. He is a doctoral candidate at KSU, where he served as a graduate assistant to Dr. Goins, and is also the Director of Jazz Studies at Washburn University. Drummer Leifer is from Topeka, and has played locally in Kansas City in many bands and participates in Black House Improvisors’ Collective. Everette DeVan is also a special guest with his B-3.
As I said, this is a showcase for all involved, and another very solid Wayne Goins release from the Little Apple.