Russell Jackson

Persistence, talent key to Jacobson’s success

Anyone who sees local guitarist Charlie Jacobson playing with blues heavyweights Kenny Wayne, Donald Ray Johnson and Russell Jackson will have one question in mind.

Anyone who sees local guitarist Charlie Jacobson playing with blues heavyweights Kenny Wayne, Donald Ray Johnson and Russell Jackson will have one question in mind.

How the heck did a 21-year-old white kid from Red Deer get into this band of veteran U.S. musicians?

After all, New Orleans-raised Wayne is a prodigious boogie-woogie piano player who once played with Jimmy Reid.

Johnson is a blind Texan drummer who fronts the 10-piece Ray Charles Tribute Orchestra and won a 1979 Grammy Award for his stint in the soul/disco group Taste of Honey.

And Memphis-born Jackson played bass for eight years in B.B. King’s band and has recorded with Willie Nelson, Charlie Musselwhite and Sonny Rhodes.

On top of the wide gap in musical experience and geography that exists between Jacobson and the rest of the band is the age variance.

“I am about 40 years younger,” said Jacobson, who noted the other musicians are either over 60, or soon to hit the six-decade mark.

The answer to his place in this seasoned band of blues men — who will perform together Aug. 1 and 2 at Fratters Speakeasy in Red Deer — lies in the young guitarist’s persistence and talent.

“I just fell into playing with the Russell Jackson band at Blues on Whyte in Edmonton. I knew the other guitar player and I was showing up and sitting in with the band,” he recalls.

Jacobson’s talent was soon recognized by Jackson, who invited him to play with his band on a regular basis.

The seasoned blues man, who now splits his time between the U.S. and Canada, became something of a mentor to the young Red Deer player. “He spends a lot of time with me, and I get to hear a lot of his great old stories and good advice,” said Jacobson.

“I really look up to him — but when I’m on stage, we’re a band.”

And there’s little doubt that Jacobson pulls his weight, since Jackson brought him on board as a guitar player during several gigs he’s playing with Wayne and Johnson in Central Alberta and Calgary.

Jacobson is thrilled to be in such esteemed musical company. “It’s a huge opportunity for me and a great deal of fun. I’m soaking up everything I can,” he said, adding “for me this is a dream come true.”

The local guitarist has mostly learned how to be “a true musical professional” from the older players, “and the importance of the groove — the importance of the musicality and the feeling behind the music.”

Jacobson freely lets the music move him on stage, and dances while playing. “The blues to me is a release of emotion. Expressing the blues really helps you to feel better. It doesn’t get me down, it expresses hard feelings. And the dancing is important.

“I’m very excited, so I’m all over the place when I play.”

With Wayne’s exuberant boogie-woogie piano melodies, he said audience members will also let loose on the dance floor. “These guys get everyone dancing.”

The Red Deer crowd will mostly hear original songs written by Wayne, as well as a few blues standards. “We’ll be playing a lot of good-time dance tunes,” said Jacobson, who aimed to be a musician for as long as he can remember.

His parents, Red Deer musicians Teresa Neuman and Bruce Jacobson, made up the core of the now-defunct local band Bull Simple in the 1990s.

Old blues and R&B records were regularly heard playing around the house while he was growing up.

Jacobson has performed in a number of bands before and after graduating from Lindsay Thurber Comprehensive High School, and still divides his time between playing straight-up blues and blues-rock with his Charlie Jacobson Band.

“I’ve played and listened to all kinds of music, but blues, R&B and soul music really speaks to me,” he said.

The musician is continuing to write original tunes for a first full-length album he intends to record with the Charlie Jacobson Band this fall. “I’m very excited to get these songs recorded. It’s been a long time coming,” said Jacobson, who has been songwriting since his teenage years.

“I’m going to take everything I’ve learned and put everything into the album.”

There’s a $15 cover charge for the 9 p.m. concert at Fratters.

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