NEW ORLEANS SCENE STALWART Roland Guerin was an undeclared MVP at Jazz Fest this year, variously laying down solid jazz walking and spiky funk grooves with keyboard men Allen Toussaint, Henry Butler, and Ellis Marsalis. When not playing with them, guitarist John Scofield, or pianist Marcus Roberts, Guerin is busy prepping his sixth solo album. He has also contributed music to the score of the documentary “Historically Black,” a forthcoming DVD from Nerjyzed Entertainment.
Lately, you seem to be drawn to playing in piano trios. What do you like about that kind of setting?
There’s plenty of space for everyone’s voices. I can rest assured the other guys are listening and ready to support me, as long as I have good ideas that make sense. But I like just about any setting where the music is on a high level.
How do you approach your gigs with New Orleans legend Allen Toussaint?
The bass lines Allen writes have a personality that help define the essence of his songs. When I play the lines exactly as written, that personality comes through in my voice, with my interpretation of the groove and melody.
What’s a key element in playing the New Orleans style rhythm?
You have to understand where the four sits. There’s no other place with that kind of groove and expression.
HEAR HIM ON
Marcus Roberts Trio, New Orleans Meets Harlem, Vol. 1 [J-Master, 2009]; Jeremy Davenport, We’ll Dance ’Til Dawn [Basin Street, 2009]; Wess Anderson, Warm It Up, Warmdaddy! [Nu Jazz, 2009]
Upright basses Two e-size Juzeks with medium-gauge Corelli 370 strings, Fishman Full Circle pickups, and Audio-Technica ATM350 condenser mics
Electric basses Ibanez BTB 576 six-string tuned EADGCF, Ken Smith 7-string strings; Ibanez Roadster 2 4-string; custom arch top 6-string hollowbody acoustic bass guitar (of his own design)
Rig SWR Natural Blonde combo; SWR Working- Pro 700 head and SWR Goliath Junior Cab; SWR Baby Blue head (for recording)