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Jimmy Herring: Talkin' Blues, Bluegrass and More

Alan Bryson By

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AAJ: I think Derek Trucks also has that same kind of thing with his manager, Blake Budney. That's great you guys have people behind you who also get your music and believe in your artistic vision.

JH: Absolutely, and Blake is incredible too. I've known Blake for, good lord-I knew Blake when he was loading the truck and driving the van from gig to gig for Derek. So I've known him a long time. So Derek and I are both really fortunate in that respect.

AAJ: I should mention another musician on the album who caught my attention. A young cat named Carter Herring who plays cello. Where did you find him?

JH: [Laughing] He was in the basement! Carter is a very talented kid. He started playing cello probably in the sixth grade, and he took to it really fast. But to be honest, he doesn't play the cello much anymore, but on those songs we had him on, "Within You and Without You," and "Hope," I'd talked to him about it long before we recorded them. I told him, "One day I want to record this and get you to play cello on it."

But the truth is, he lost interest in playing the cello, and started playing the guitar. You know there were a lot more guitars around the house than cellos! So he really got into Cornell Dupree and Albert King. He loves blues, R&B, James Brown and funk, so he started getting into that and playing guitar all the time. So he kind of put the cello down, but he picked it up again to do this recording. And he immediately put it down after the recording, I don't think he's touched it since, in fact the cello is still sitting in the dining room right by the front door!

But he does a really good job, if he wanted to pursue the cello he could have gone a long way with it. He had a real natural gift with it, almost right out of the gate he was getting the things you look for: good tone, good time, and his vibrato was nice. But he just sort of lost interest, because I think the cello was something he associated with school. He started playing cello as a member of the orchestra at school, and you know how is it with playing in a school orchestra-they have a narrow view of music. It's about classical music and that's it.

We talked about this when he began playing the cello, I told him, "Don't get discouraged by the narrow minds of some of the people you're going to encounter. They are going to try and tell you that jazz is inferior to classical music," of course not everybody, you know what I'm saying. Like the conductor of the orchestra at school thought he was so gifted and that he should be taking private lessons.

So we got him started on private lessons with a cello teacher, and the teacher was really great, but also narrow minded. They didn't want him listening to funk, R&B, and blues, and even went to far as to ask him in an accusative way, "You've been listening to jazz and R&B, haven't you?" And Carter would say, "Yeah, I listen to all music, that and Stravinsky too."

It really bummed him out, and he quit the private lessons. He grew up around all these musicians who basically taught themselves how to play, and he wants to do it that way too. He won't ask me, and I don't teach him anything. But he's got the ear, and if you've got the ear you can teach yourself to play, it's just that simple.

He's doing that. You know, he's playing guitar on a lot of gigs around town and people will ask me, "What did you show Carter? You showed him this or that, right?" I tell them, "Look, I haven't shown him anything, except a few chords and scale fingerings." He learned from that and started teaching himself, and the kid is playing his little butt off- he's on his way. I'm proud of him.

AAJ: It's also interesting too that your daughter is so artistic. Someone from your PR team asked me if I wanted your new album as a CD or MP3, and I told them, CD because I love the artwork, as I did with Lifeboat. She said, "Did you know Jimmy's daughter Cameron did the artwork for the new CD, and she also collaborated on the artwork for Lifeboat?" That blew me away, I love both of them.

JH: Oh yeah, she did that. She's a student at the Savannah College of Art and Design. It's a really good school and she's a senior this year. She's gotten into abstract painting and she had several pieces that could have been the album cover, and that's the one she thought would be best, and I said, "Great, I like that one. Let's use that." She's into a lot of different things, she's into portraits, realism with great detail, but she's also into abstract art-so it's kind of how it is around here musically.

She loves art, just like I love music, from [saxophonist] Ornette Coleman and [keyboardist] Sun Ra to [guitarist] Roy Buchanan or [woodwind multi- instrumentalist] Paul McCandless-gospel music all the way to abstract jazz, it's all just great music, and that's the way she feels about art.

Selected Discography

Jimmy Herring, Subject to Change Without Notice (Abstract Logix, 2012)

Various Artists, The New Universe Music Festival: Abstract Logix Live! (Abstract Logix, 2011)

Jimmy Herring, Lifeboat (Abstract Logix, 2008)

Photo Credits

Page 3: Courtesy of Abstract Logix

All Other Photos: John Kelman
About Jimmy Herring
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