Magazine article Guitar Player

Wayne Kramer's "Prison Jazz" Roots

Magazine article Guitar Player

Wayne Kramer's "Prison Jazz" Roots

Article excerpt

LEXINGTON [INDUSTRIAL AMUSEMENT], Wayne Kramer's first jazz album, was inspired by the MC5 guitarist's incarceration at the Lexington Federal Prison in the mid 1970s for selling cocaine. The famous institution--once "home" to jazz greats such as Charlie Parker, Chet Baker, and Miles Davis--is being featured in a PBS documentary entitled Narcotic Farm, which Kramer is scoring.

"It dredged up a lot of memories," says Kramer.

Although known as a hard-rock guitarist, Kramer has a background in free jazz and improvisation, and he collaborated with the late Detroit trumpeter Dr. Charles Moore on Lexington. They met over six weeks to write themes, melodies, and grooves, and then gathered their dream team of jazz musicians, including trombonist Phil Ranelin, pianist Tigran Hamasyan, reed man Ralph "Buzzy " Jones, drummers Brock Avery and Eric Gardner, and bassists Bob Hurst and Doug Lunn.

"We went into the studio for three days and recorded it live," Kramer says. "No loops, samples, auto tuning, or overdubs. It's real musicians playing together in real time how they felt in that moment."

What gear did you use on the album?

I played my signature Fender Stratocaster--a reproduction of the guitar I played in the MC5--and I ran it through a Fender Hot Rod DeVille.

How did Red Rodney, your cellmate at Lexington, influence you?

Red was a trumpeter who replaced Miles Davis in the Charlie Parker Quintet, so he was old school. He was an unbelievable musician. …

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