Some would say Boogie Woogie piano playing is becoming a lost art.
In Canada, Michael Kaeshammer is carrying on the tradition although Michael is not purely Boogie Woogie.
This is where Victor Wainwright fits in.
Along with his band The Wildroots, Victor is introducing the Boogie Woogie piano to Quebec in an increasingly intense fashion.
Saturday evening in Terrebonne at the Theatre du Vieux-Terrebonne ( Salle du Moulinet), Victor et al put on a show worthy of Sainthood. The audience was placed in a classroom and schooled on a profound lesson of Blues, Jazz, Funk and Soul. Victor was the teacher / preacher and The Wildroots were his disciples / back- up singers.
Victor Wainright learned to play piano from his Grandfather Jesse Wainright. A teacher who – well into his eighties, still plays the piano ( proudly pointed out by Victor in all his shows). Judging by Victor’s EXPERTISE, one can only imagine just how talented the elder Wainright must be.
Victor and The Wildroots are filled with southern hospitality. That down-home flavor of making folks feel at home oozes out of Victor and into the keyboards. From there, that energy, that talent is passed to the audience via Pat Harrington ( guitar), Terrence Grayson ( bass) and Billy Dean ( drums). No-one within earshot of ‘the show’ is excused from fun. Victor Wainright and The Wildroots are that infectious.
The band hits it’s stride, it’s groove –early on.
‘Boomtown’ from the album of the same name, reeks of sweaty Blues and R and B. Harnessed energy pulls and pushes the audience back and forth like any track from The Stones’ vintage disc ‘Exile on Main Street’. Fused with Victor’s talent on piano, the track is a stepping stone into the path of vintage music. Real music. CROSSROADS kinda stuff. Grayson and Dean’s pocket, the breeding ground for the Devil himself; Pat Harrington …
Channeling Ron Wood, Jeff Beck and Derek Trucks, Harrington ‘slides’ his way into the hearts of musicologists with his adeptness on not just slide guitar but the guitar in general. Although still young, Harrington displays a feel for his instrument normally obtained by players ten years his senior. Schooled in Jazz, Funk and Blues – Pat easily ‘jumps’ around in every genre all the while RESPECTING the spaces of the tune and the structures.
For all the ‘restraint’ brought on by ‘Boomtown’, ‘Alabama Jubilee‘ is freeing.
Full tilt Boogie Woogie hits the audience directly in the face. No holding back by anyone as the band fills it’s place in the annals of music history. Ian Stewart ( Stones) would be proud of the maturity within such a young group. After-all it is not what you play, it is what you do not play. That is the trick that all BLUESMEN – from James Cotton to B.B. King UTILIZED to enhance a song to it’s utmost potential. The Wildroots ‘get it’. So does Victor. After Saturday EVENING – so does Terrebonne, Quebec.
Wainwright is grounded. Weaving tales of his life story, his close friends and experiences intrinsically to the audience. Whether it be relaying his tales of busking on Beale Street in in Memphis, his not-so-proud moments as an air traffic controller or beating his nicotine habit, Wainright’s words and music are real.
Perhaps the most telling moment of the show was Wainright’s Capella vocals to honor his late friend and ‘mentor’ Phillip Dale Durham. Durham wrote one of the most famous Blues songs ever. ‘Same Old blues ( recorded by Freddie King). Wainright sang ‘Same Old Blues’ SATURDAY night as if it was the ‘Same New Blues.’ Hair-raising notes emitting cool-sounding riffs from Harrington’s guitar. Slowly making love to the most hardest of hearts as Victor’s combination of softness and power transcended the audience to a teary-eyed moment in time.
Performing ‘The Jungle Book’, ‘Big Dogs Running’ or the brand new ‘ Playing the Piano to Cure Depression’ leaves an indelible impression on the musical soul. Wainright and his ‘roots’ cover the history of popular music. From Wainright’s hero Pinetop Perkins through to Jerry Lee Lewis; Boogie Woogie’s place within Blues and Rock n Roll cannot be dismissed.
If not for Johnnie Johnson, Chuck Berry’s ‘Greatest Sideman in the History of Rock n Roll’, the piano may have fallen by the wayside.
Wainright is doing his best to ensure the legacy of the men who came before him, lives on and strong. Wainright enjoys doing it so much so – his smile and joy are as infectious as the music.
‘Somewhere Over the Rainbow’ ( performed with spine-tingling vocals by Wainright), Pinetop is smiling. Just like Victor …