|||| in the groove with the Paul Wainwright Band

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Lawrence Russell

The Magnolia Hotel [Hugo's micro] | Swan's Hotel [micro brew] | Market Square [Jazz Fest] | Central Bar & Grill [boogie]

| Scene I. Victoria. Street. Early summer evening, red sky, contrails. Step out of Hugo's pub, see the Saxman [Paul Wainwright] sitting in the back of a blue Mazda sport wagon, windows open, listening to a demo. Up-tempo funk, Zawinul Weather Report fusion feel. Couple of passing women roll their hips, smile, laugh. PW's soprano sax is riding the jet stream, taking them away... or maybe it's the Steve Duben slap-boogie bass. Hmm... should I go home, or should I hang? Lean towards the open window, say, Manny... step outta the car... turn around, put your hands on the roof.... Saxman laughs, gets out... we shake, do the Masonic hippy lock. He's lean, he's loose, he's wearing a green gangster jacket, fedora. Long time, he says, so how you been doing? Doing o.k., I say. What's the tune? A thing we just recorded, he says. First mix. What've you been up to? Beers? Ginsengers, I say. A Hugo's house special. Nice micro, he says. Yeah, I say. So, tune got a name? Plank Spankin, he says. Nice, I say. Sidney Bechet slam funk-a-delic... CUT TO:

|| Scene II. Old Town, 2, 3 hours later. Hot now, I'm hitting the Coronas, leaning on the hitch bar in Swan's watching a squat guy with red hair bug with a chunky chick, jeans way too tight, both of them like jive truckers out of an Art Crumb comic. Other dancers give them lots of room, even tho there isn't lots, just some floor between the bar and the band who are backed up against the grand window doors & bistro tables on the sidewalk. Big blue Johnston St. bridge in the background, lots of tourists moving through. Good night for King Curtis... and Paul's kicking into the KC classic, Soul Serenade.

During the break he drops by. I say, Paul, you know King Curtis was murdered? I do know, he says. Some guy stabbed him. A derelict, I say. Cut him down on the NY street for no good reason. One of the best, says Paul. Used to do a lot of his stuff. Yakky Yak, I say. You used to play it with Duke & the Ducktails. You remember that? he says. A lot of those gigs, I say. Now you're into groove. Yeah, he says. Groove's good for sax players. Good for dancing too, I say.

Paul knows. The PW groove has been forged from years on the road. He's done it all, bio reads like a T-shirt... casinos, beaches, clubs... Vegas, Atlantic City... places... and Victoria. Always Sweet Home Victoria.

Who's doing the CD? I say. Triactive, he says. Got a title? I say. Not yet, he says. Wanna see what happens when I get all the tracks. Cool, I say. Send me a sample mp3. On it, man, he says.

Old lady with a black purse hanging from her elegant hand is dancing by herself in the corner. Intermission music. A senior, definitely over 70, could be eighty. Must be out of one of the new condos on the water across the street. Nice necklace, rings, black shiny shoes. Her beer is sitting on her table, waiting, half gone.

Duck into the can, surprise the squat jiver who's stripped to the waist, sponging himself with paper towels over the sink. His back and arms are covered with red curly hair. Big shoulders. Got a tattoo running up his spine, swear to God it slithers as he moves. He's a different kinda cat, no doubt about it. Hot, I say cheerfully, lean into the urinal. Betcha, he says. Specially when you're dancin. Good band, eh, I say. Fer sure, he says... starts pulling on his shirt. What do you think of that drummer? I say. He's o.k., Red says. He never smiles, I say. Some people don't, Red says. Must be a prison guard, I say. Never smiles. A screw? Red says. He pauses, comb frozen mid-air, double exposure in the mirror. Hard groove, I say... then exit casually back into the body heat of the packed bar.

My friend Mr. B is talking with a blond guy who looks a bit like Carradine in King Fu, also turns out to have the same name: B. This B. buys us a round, then rhapsodizes about Steve Duben, the bass player. Steve's the best bass player in Canada, he says. Played with everybody... I'm checking out Steve's equipment: tonight he's playing a Warwick, made in Germany (and played by the likes of Jack Bruce), pumping through what looks like an Eden combo amp. He's spankin his plank, hopping into the dance floor, workin the chain, lifting the slack. Band is stripped down tonight. No gitar player.

My friend Mr. B says, B here is taking care of an island... in the gulf, near the international line... owned by a billionaire, choppers in from Seattle with his family, friends, business people... got a PGA golf course, deep sea moorage... submarine pen. We chuckle. How do you like it? I say. Great, he says. Beautiful... got its own climate, wildlife. Water? I say. We only drink wine in paradise, he says.

||| Scene III. Afternoon, few days later. Old Town, Market Square... sandblast brick, pebble concrete, hanging baskets. Paul and his gig band are playing the Victoria Jazz Fest, which seems to happen every June in this Island city by the sea. Gig is in the Greek, that is, in the basin of the square, people sitting on the steps as in an open-air amphitheatre, band on a portable stage below some rigging... fancy stretch tarp, spot-lights, monitors. It's gray out, muggy, might rain, might not. Strange crowd, mostly older folks... lots of boomers, seniors... seeing-eye dog dozing in front of the stage, master with shades nearby... players all wearing shades... Paul has blue Lennons, big gold tenor... flanked by Tom Lang (guitar) stage right, Steve Duben (bass) stage left.

One guy is rocking dangerously back and forth in his wheel chair, might go bouncing down those steps, wipe out below the stage, take those women with him. It's the groove... Paul is ripping that tenor through some King Curtis again... Soul Twist, Soul Serenade. Guy sitting near the sound board is sketching the band, doing fast takes in pastels.

The crowd is digging Paul's version of Bill Withers' Using You, that FM modulated groove classic in fourths. Love as a flesh eating disease. Aaron Neville covered it, nailed its politics, and now the Saxman is nailing them too: oh you keep on using me/ until you use me up/ uh uh until you use me up.

Young security guy comes up, says, hey man, you can't stand on the stairs. Piss me off or what, mar the groove. Alls I'm doing is descending.

See Morry Stearns, the veteran player working double Roland keyboards... remember him years ago with the dual keyboard attack in the Sample-Stearns Band.

Guitar player is good too, sits back in the pocket... and when necessary, steps up to the plate, sends us a rocket. Paul tells me the man is a veteran of the Australian arena circuit. Tom Lang. Check his site, check his songs.

Somewhere back there is Eric Emde, rockin his cage. Kit seems bigger today, a mash machine driving the beat. Authority: people are lovin it.

Flash-forward: next night, Sunday, I'm standing in exactly the same spot, watching the French-Algerian rai rocker Rachid Taha finish his set... and the Victoria Jazz Fest for this year. Rachid, unknown here, big in Europe and North Africa. I have his recent Mondo Melodia release Live in Brussels, produced by the great U.K. psychedelic guitarist Steve Hillage... bunch of women have climbed onto the stage, are dancing with the players when the band quite unexpectedly breaks into Rockin the Casbah.

Hard groove? Camel humpin boogie, I'd say.

|||| Scene IV. Weeks later & still no rain. The water bombers are circling, and the raccoons are coming into the house, stealing the cat's grub. I phone the Saxman.

Howz the recording going, I ask. He laughs. I gave up my studio room so my wife could use it to do her sewing, he says. Incredible, I say. What altruism. Don't worry, he says, I reconfigured.

Listened to that latest track you sent me, I say. Airstream. Did you double your sax? Tenor with soprano? No no, he says. Just alto.

Hear you're bringing in some more players, I say. Yes, he says. John Ferraro, drums with Larry Carleton.

Shit, I'm thinking, Carleton got shot by a robber. Took him years to recover. Saw him at the Cancun jazz festival, mid nineties, and he was still recovering. Beautiful player.

Paul, I say, you consider yourself lucky?

Yes I do, he says. Have a great band and I never thought I'd have such a great band.

We talk about Wynton & Bradford Marsalis for a while... extending jazz into pop, about the crossover, historic need to tighten up. I mention what Sting said a few years back about the difference between jazz and rock. Jazz, you have time to hit the sweet spot, rock you gotta hit it right away, first note.

That's what I'm trying to do, says Paul. That's it exactly. Hit it.

© Lawrence Russell 7/05

The Paul Wainwright Band is: Paul Wainwright (tenor, alto, soprano sax, vocals), Steve Duben (bass), Tom Lang (guitar & vocals), Morry Stearns (keys), Eric Emde (percussion)

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