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Interviews

Doug Wamble: A New Direction

By Published: December 21, 2010
In the beginning, I was a clarinetist in high school, I was turned on by the Benny Goodman
Benny Goodman
Benny Goodman
1909 - 1986
clarinet
, Charlie Christian albums, and from there, especially in college where people were really into Pat Metheny
Pat Metheny
Pat Metheny
b.1954
guitar
and John Scofield
John Scofield
John Scofield
b.1951
guitar
, I got really into that stuff. But I was drawn back to the early jazz period, the early Duke Ellington
Duke Ellington
Duke Ellington
1899 - 1974
piano
records really drew me in. Within that context I was also checking out early Delta blues, with all the slide playing that went along with that music. I started to learn Johnny Hodges
Johnny Hodges
Johnny Hodges
1907 - 1970
sax, alto
solos, which I found really led themselves to being played with a slide, so I did that before I was learning Robert Johnson
Robert Johnson
Robert Johnson
1911 - 1938
vocalist
and Son House
Son House
Son House
1902 - 1988
guitar, slide
stuff. It really grew out of me wanting to make my guitar sound like Johnny Hodges.

It was also acoustic music since I played almost exclusively acoustic guitar for many years. A few years later I started really getting into a record that was overseen by John Medeski
John Medeski
John Medeski

keyboard
on Ropeadope Records. Through that record I was turned onto Aubrey Ghent, who's an amazing pedal steel player, and a preacher who married Derek Trucks and his wife. He plays pedal steel like Mahalia Jackson
Mahalia Jackson
Mahalia Jackson
1911 - 1972
vocalist
sings, it's amazing. He was a big influence on Derek, and I'm a huge fan of Derek's playing, so that's been a big influence on my slide playing and so I wanted to do some of that on the new record.

I've come at the slide thing totally backwards but it's one of those things I've always liked and have kept working on over the years. I also wanted to experiment with an electric guitar on this record, all of my previous albums were done with a miked up acoustic guitar, so it gave me a chance to work with some new sounds that I haven't checked out before. I just bought my first pedals this year, and it was really tricky to get used to those things. It's hard to remember when to step on them and where to set the dials, but it was a great experience and it really opened up my music to new directions.

AAJ: You wrote all of the songs for the album except one, a cover of a tune by Fiona Apple. Why is it about Fiona's music that draws you to it and inspired you to cover her song on the album?

DW: I'm a big fan of her and her music. I think she's just a really remarkable songwriter and I love the way she approaches music. She's very serious about her music. She's not out there to play the game, she's out there to make music and I respect that. She's also really willing to just put herself out there and sing songs that are very personal, and that takes a lot of courage. A lot of the songs on this record were very personal, and that song, the lyrics and the story that it told, I really identified with and I felt that I could bring something to.

The song was something that I experienced in my own life and I wanted to have a little moment to close out the record, just me and an acoustic guitar, and do something different to finish the album. I had been doing that song on the road with my jazz group and this was just a different version of it. It's a song that I guess when I heard it 10 years ago when it came out became one of my favorite songs of hers and it made it onto my list of tunes that I wanted to record one day, and this album gave me a chance to do that.

AAJ: Some of your first gigs out of college were with huge name performers, such as Wynton and Cassandra Wilson, who helped you kick start your performing career. Now that you're older and more established, do you feel that you are in a place to become a mentor for the next generation of players, and is mentorship something that you feel is necessary in a young player's development?

DW: Absolutely. I do love to teach and I don't get a chance to do it as much as I want to. I went to jazz school, and I got a master's, because I wanted to teach one day but I didn't want to go straight from grad school to a teaching gig, I went to New York instead. If you want to learn to speak Spanish, you hang around people who speak Spanish; and if you want to learn jazz you need to hang out with people who do this every day and who do it better than you.

It's unfortunate, because today there are fewer opportunities to mentor with older, more established players than in previous eras. Those kinds of gigs are still around, but a lot of those older cats are in their 80s, or they're not playing anymore. I think Wynton and guys like Joe Lovano
Joe Lovano
Joe Lovano
b.1952
saxophone
, and Herbie Hancock
Herbie Hancock
Herbie Hancock
b.1940
piano
are helping to mentor the next generation. So are players like Sting, who I think has a few guys just bopping around New York looking for young talent to work with and take on the road.


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