Kenny "Blues Boss" Wayne | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Kenny "Blues Boss" Wayne

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Pianist Kenny Wayne came of age in Los Angeles in the late 50s, when the smooth, jazz-tinged style of blues artists like Lloyd Glenn and Charles Brown was still popular on the west coast. He also cites as influences Kansas City swingers like Jay McShann, as well as New Orleans R & B pioneers such as Professor Longhair and Fats Domino. His upcoming Night & Day album, Blues Carry Me Home, is a winningly low-key outing on which the pianist combines contemporary influences (free-form impressionism on the intro to the title track, burbling pop funk on "Wine, Beer, and Whiskey") with old-school boogie and jump-blues elements. "Another Chance" kicks off with a Delta-style intro that segues elegantly into a gospel theme reminiscent of vintage Ray Charles; its gentle attack and chording are mournful, but its sparkling melody and ascending lines suggest hope. "Blues Love Theme" recalls the urbanity of Nat King Cole, while "Amazing Boogie by the Riverside" leaps out of the pulpit and leads the congregation across the street to a juke joint. As a vocalist Wayne's gift for understatement is one of his most attractive qualities: on the lilting "You're Spoiled Rotten," for instance, he conveys deep feeling by accentuating his phrases with crisp articulation and wide-interval jumps, rather than relying on pushy pyrotechnics. For this gig he'll be joined by guitarist Wil Crosby, a Chicago-based veteran (currently a mainstay in Mavis Staples's band) whose lead work on Blues Carry Me Home reflects Wayne's own aesthetic of unflashy virtuosity rooted in, but not constrained by, tradition. Friday, April 18, 9:30 PM, and Saturday, April 19, 10 PM, Rosa's Lounge, 3420 W. Armitage; 773-342-0452.

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