Bogart takes boogie off in her own direction


September 11, 1992|By J.D. Considine | J.D. Considine,Pop Music Critic

Deanna Bogart is not your typical boogie-woogie piano player.

For one thing, she's young -- at 33, barely half the age of the best-known boogie-woogie blues players. For another, she plays saxophone in addition to (and almost as well as) boogie-woogie piano.

But what most sets her apart from others in her field is simply the way she plays. For where other pianists look at boogie as an effective but stylistically limited approach to the blues, Bogart sees only opportunities.

"When I do traditional boogie woogie, I do it very untraditionally," she says, speaking over the phone from a tour stop in Ocean City. "I mean, there are people who are recreative and do it wonderfully. But I've always tended to want to hack my own road -- even if there's a perfectly good one right next to me."

It isn't that she's being contrary, mind. As she puts it, "I don't know any other way than to do it. I was born in 1959, and this is the '90s. There are all those other influences through the years that have gone inside, and have come out through the music that I love. So there is definitely a modern sound to it.

"I don't believe in boundaries anyway," she adds. "If it works, it works."

Perhaps that's why her albums manage to capture the raucous, barrelhouse feel of classic boogie without sounding like retreads. For instance, "Crossing Borders" (Flying Fish), her second and most recent album, blends thumping boogie piano licks with screaming rock guitar on some tunes, slips into sax-sweetened jump grooves on others, and tops it all off with a generous serving of jazz.

It's a heady mix, yet thoroughly accessible. Even so, Bogart is sometimes surprised at the degree of subtlety her listeners pick up on.

"It's really funny when people are familiar with what I'm doing and they know where it's coming from," she says. "They kind of look at me real surprised and they'll come up and say, 'I caught that quote from a jazz tune in your right hand. What are you doing, what are your influences?' "

"But it works," she adds, with a satisfied chuckle. "Boogie woogie makes people feel good, and so a lot of people come out -- it doesn't matter if it's a blues room or in a rock room. It's just amazing that one style can cross so many barriers. It's such a cross-generational kind of music."

Of course, it helps that Bogart is a cross-generational player, as well. Unlike most of the younger boogie pianists, who grew up on a diet of Jerry Lee Lewis and Dr. John, Bogart's background is strictly jazz-based, with a heavy emphasis on boogie greats like Albert Ammons, Pete Johnson and Meade Lux Lewis. "When anybody ever makes the Jerry Lee Lewis comparison to me, I say, 'Well, I've never listened to him,' " she says. "I know who he is and what he does, but I've never listened to him. We must have listened to the same people. It's probably those guys.

"But when people say, 'You're self-taught,' well, no. I've learned from the masters. I had every one of them on tape downstairs in my basement.

"I wish I could have seen them live," she adds. "I wish I could have been there in Kansas City in the '30s, being in all the jam sessions."

Still, Bogart has been lucky enough to play with most of the surviving greats at blues festivals. "They were calling me the young one, which I thought was funny, because I'm not young," she laughs. "But when you're out there with people like Ruth Brown and Johnny Copeland and all those people, I guess I am.

"Ruth Brown was saying, 'You even 30 yet?'

" 'Yeah, I'm 30.'

She says, 'I have blouses older than you.' I said, 'All right, Ruth, just give me 30 years, I'll be cooking.'

"She was laughing. She goes, You know, you just get better as you get older. Like fine wine.' It's nice to be in a genre where that's appreciated."

Maryland Summer

Music Festival

When: Sept. 13, 1 p.m. to 9 p.m.

Where: Pier Six Concert Pavilion.

Tickets: $19.50 reserved seating, $12.50 lawn. Proceeds to benefit the Eutaw Centre Shelter.

Call: (410) 625-3100 for information, (410) 625-4230 for tickets.

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