Kelowna-based pianist Kenny ‘ Blues Boss’ Wayne truly has the world as his stage.
Presented by the Central Music Festival Society, the acclaimed musician – a master in the boogie, funk and New Orleans-influenced R&B – performs at the International Beer Haus on May 5th. Showtime is 8 p.m.
Along with his six-piece band, he’ll be serving up the top-notch cuts from his latest project, Jumpin’ and Boppin’ which was released last year. Indeed – Jumpin’ and Boppin’ enjoyed a stretch at number one on Canadian and U.S. Blues charts, and marks Wayne’s third recording on Stony Plain Records.
The disc is a rollicking ride from start to finish, starting off with the aptly-titled Blues Boss Shuffle.
From there, highlights are aplenty from the swagger of Bankrupted Blues, Blues Stew, Ciao Ciao Baby and the slow-down smoky charm of You Don’t Know Me.
Wayne produced the CD, and said that he wanted to incorporate many of the styles and personal influences that have meant the most to him over the years into the final mix – folks like Ray Charles, Fats Domino among several others.
“My plans were to have the people that I have really respected and loved, to have their influences on this particular recording,” he explained. “While I’m making this wonderful journey through life and having the opportunity to record my own songs, I try to make every recording better than the last,” he said.
Born in Spokane and now based in British Columbia, Wayne has built a stellar reputation within Canada and abroad for his lively attire and energetic concert performances.
Wayne released his first solo album Alive & Loose, which featured Shuggie Otis, on Andy Griggs’ Real Blues Records in 1995. It marked the start of Wayne’s blues journey and was followed by four albums for Canadian label Electro-Fi Records: 88th & Jump Street, Juno Award winning Let It Loose, Can’t Stop Now and the live recording Piano-Rama.
Wayne also recorded in Paris for Isabel Records at the same studio that Memphis Slim frequently recorded. Since joining Stony Plain Records in 2011, he has released An Old Rock On A Roll, which earned him a Blues Foundation nomination for the Pinetop Perkins Piano Award, and Rollin’ with the Blues Boss.
For Jumpin’ and Boppin’, special guest Duke Robillard proved the perfect guitarist and Russell Jackson, B.B. King’s long-time bassist, locks in the rhythm section alongside (and former Red Deerian) Charlie Jacobson, Joey DiMarco, Sherman Doucette and Dave Babcock who have contributed their talents to this recording as well.
Wayne laughed as he recalled having a cold during some of the recording, and that it was done on a comparatively tight timeline.
Still, the results are spot-on and Wayne, in his typically relaxed and humble manner, is certainly pleased with the results and the ‘spirit’ of the project.
Born in Spokane in 1944, Wayne’s family settled in Los Angeles where the West Coast blues scene was bubbling over. Showing a gift for playing piano early on, Wayne was encouraged by his preacher dad to play gospel.
With folks like Lloyd Glenn, Amos Milburn and Floyd Dixon ruling the airwaves in the early 1950s, it was a tall order for the youngster to steer clear of ‘the devil’s music’.
But by his early teen years, Wayne was playing dozens of gigs in the early ’60s and in 1974, Wayne moved to San Francisco to work with R&B band Earth Rise. Stints with other bands continued but disco was starting to impact the live music scene.
Wayne then put together an R&B revue called The Mighty Ken Explosion and headed to Canada.
The band broke up in the late 1980s, and Wayne settled in Vancouver. His full transformation into ‘Blues Boss’ came following a 1994 tour of Europe. His longtime passion for boogie-woogie and blues paid off in the form of star treatment from piano-loving European music fans, particularly while in Spain.
That period also opened up so many doors internationally – a huge unexpected blessing, he adds.
Wayne also noted that his life has a musician has been one of non-stop inspiration and amazing opportunities to both travel the world and meet some of the finest musicians on the scene both yesterday and today.
He’s also as joyful and energized as ever to pursue his craft.
“The other day I saw Tina Turner on a video. She was going to sing Proud Mary, and first she said, ‘People ask me when I’m going to quit. I tell them, I’m just getting started!’
“I also love what I’m doing – I’m able to meet a lot of great people,” he said reflectively.
“This music business has taken me to places I probably would never have seen otherwise. There are people welcoming you, waiting for you and exciting about you coming to perform. Music has definitely kept me going and it’s kept me intrigued. I also love to see the joy in people’s faces – that keeps me going, and it keeps me happy.”
Tickets for his Red Deer show are available online at www.centralmusicfest.com or at the door.