KENNY "Blues Boss" WAYNE
88th & Jump Street

BLUES & RHYTHM #171 (U.K.) August 2002

I’ve read a lot of good words about this guy (including those from B&R quoted on the sleeve, rating him "superb….an act to watch out for") and on this, my first opportunity to hear him, I have to concur with all those writers who have sung his praises. In this era of hysterical guitar excesses it’s good to hear a good old fashioned blues and boogie piano player. There are not too many ivory ticklers around these days and although not in the first flush of youth. Wayne is (relatively) young compared with most of the opposition.

Although U.S.A. born I believe he is now based in Canada and this is his debut waxing for the Toronto Electro-Fi imprint. The backing crew are a bunch of local players supplemented by guests from over the border: Jeff Healey, ex-Muddy stickman Willie Smith, Bob Stroger and Mel Brown (although Brown is now himself Toronto based).

Apart from the Country tinged "Whiskey Heaven" (which Fats Domino had a go at) all the songs are originals penned by Wayne and only one of them comes in over the four and a half minute mark (and then only by a whisker). "My Nadine" opens proceedings with a boogie woogie meets Chuck Berry groove (with a title like that what else would it be!). Healey thankfully manages to reign in his overblown rock turgidity and produces a solo that St. Louis’ favorite son would have been proud of. "Laughing Stock" slows down proceedings to a mid-tempo stroll and the introduction of David Hoerl’s blues harp brings the late fifties classic Jimmy Rogers band sound to mind.

"Going Down South" takes us to the Big Easy, where piano players ruled the roost, add horns and you have a Longhair pastiche, and what’s wrong with that? "With These Hands" is a smoothie with a back up chorus that nods to Charles Brown, while the smoking instrumental "88th and Jump Street" showcases the work of Mel Brown and David Hoerl, and "Don’t Knock On My Door" is another New Orleans flavoured song this time bringing to mind Fats Domino.

The instrumental "Smokin’ Boogie" gives Wayne the opportunity to show off his boogie shoes, while Healey proves that he too can get down with the best of them, and the closer "We Love The Blues" (well we do, don’t we?), will surely have Spann, Maceo, and a bunch of others up there giving a nod of approval.

Kenny Wayne has a penchant for flamboyant stage outfits and "88th and Jump Street" is a suitably flamboyant session; it comes recommended to piano blues enthusiasts everywhere.

Phil Wight

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