Boogie-Woogie pianist Axel Zwingenberger talks about Big Joe Turner, Champion Jack Dupree, Alexis Korner, Charlie Watts, & Sippie Wallace

"You’re a good musician if you can integrate all your life experiences into your music."

Axel Zwingenberger: “Boogie Woogie Be With Me”

Axel Zwingenberger is a blues and boogie-woogie pianist, and songwriter. He is considered one of the finest boogie-woogie music masters in the world. Zwingenberger was born in Hamburg, Germany, and enjoyed eleven years of conventional piano training. In 1973 he listened to recordings of boogie-woogie pianists Albert Ammons, Meade "Lux" Lewis, and Pete Johnson. He soon joined piano playing partners Hans-Georg Moeller, Vince Weber and Martin Pyrker, and word about the four friends began to spread. In 1974, he played at the First International Blues-and-Boogie Woogie Festival of the West German Radio Station in Cologne which was followed by Hans Maitner's annual festival Stars of Boogie Woogie in Vienna.

By 1975, Zwingenberger received his first recording contract, issuing such solo recordings as Boogie Woogie Breakdown, Power House Boogie, and Boogie Woogie Live, as well as lending his talents to recordings by such artists as Lionel Hampton, Jay McShann, Big Joe Turner, Lloyd Glenn, Joe Newman, Sippie Wallace, Mama Yancey, Champion Jack Dupree, Sammy Price, Ray Bryant, Charlie Watts, Bill Wyman, Vince Weber, and the Mojo Blues Band, among others. In addition to issuing other solo recordings, Zwingenberger continues to tour all over the world. He has also authored several publications about blues/boogie-woogie music and musicians as well as Boogie Woogie: Piano Solo, a book of 12 of his compositions, exactly transcribed.
Being a railfan since early childhood, he is also known for his photographs of steam locomotives, including some taken from within the machinery itself. Zwingenberger established a non-profit foundation within the German Foundation for the Protection of Historical Monuments which donates for the preservation of monuments on rails, including the world's fastest operational steam locomotive, the German DR 18 201. In spring 2009, coordinated by young pianist Ben Waters from the UK, Zwingenberger renewed his relationship with Charlie Watts, drummer of The Rolling Stones. Together with bassist Dave Green, they played joint concerts labeled as 'The ABC&D of Boogie Woogie'.

Interview by Michael Limnios

Q: When was your first desire to become involved in the blues &who were your first idols?
A: It started when I first heard 3 shellack 78 records of Pete Johnson, Albert Ammons and Meade “Lux” Lewis. They became my first idols for playing boogie woogie, and since that is a style of blues piano, I also got hooked on the blues.

Q: What does Boogie Woogie offer you & why do you play the blues?
A: Boogie Woogie in my opinion is the hottest music that ever was invented for the piano. Having started out as a trained pianist, I knew right away when I first heard it that it’s a pianistically very demanding style. It is very hard for classical pianists to sustain a boogie woogie left hand ostinato and work it like a rhythm section. There are many right hand figures you cannot master with conventional, classical fingering. All that was very interesting already. The boogie woogie has such a drive and a beauty of sound which I found striking. And the best is, all that is just created out of the piano.

Q: Is “blues” a way of life & what does “88 black and white keys” mean to you?
A: I know some people think that “living the blues” means a certain habit, maybe outfit, maybe approach to music or life. Of course, when we all started out, we wanted to look “cool”, as you would call it today. We would wear hippie type clothing in the 70s and wouldn’t want to be “too normal”. Today, I think it’s about sincerity and a sensitivity which enables you to express joy and sadness, and you have to be able to express that with your music. Blues is a very direct form of music and expression, not formalistic at all. If you want to deliver that expression, you have to be true to yourself and give your true feelings to the audience. I enjoy playing, so I let the people know. “88 black and white keys” means harmony: black and white have to work together to make the piano sound right.

Q: Which was the best moment of your career and which was the worst?
A: That’s difficult to answer. There are always good and bad moments or periods. I couldn’t recall what I would consider the best nor the worst moment. For a long time, I have enjoyed many great moments, so I tend to forget about the bad ones!

Q: How would you describe your contact to people when you are on stage?
A: If there are fellow musicians on stage, I communicate with them musically all the time, particularly, when we improvise together. The joint efforts of all musicians create the music. Towards the audience, I like to look at them from time to time, and I like them to share a good time with me. After all, blues and boogie woogie is musical entertainment, so I try to entertain the people, but by the music itself, not by too much showmanship.

Q: Which is the most interesting period in your life and why?
A: All my life has been very interesting. Find a challenge (either in music or in something else), and you won’t get bored!

Q: From whom have you have learned the most secrets about blues music?
A: Very influential at the beginning was a great blues and boogie piano playing friend of mine, Hans-Georg Moeller from Hamburg. He was a wonderful player with a lot of feeling, and he could explain something about the secrets, like the right touch, a bit of fingering, but mainly about the expression of the music. Another friend of mine who had some influence was Hans Maitner, a blues record collector who has the right feeling for the music, as if he was a musician himself. He would introduce me to a lot of important recordings. An then, I was fortunate to know some of the great pioneers, like my old friend Champion Jack Dupree, who was one of the most expressive blues pianists and singers, like Big Joe Turner, who was a big impression on me as the last surviving member of the 1930s Ammons-Lewis-Johnson-Turner boogie woogie group, and like Lionel Hampton. You can’t learn more about dynamics and swing than sitting in Hampton’s big band which I was fortuntate to experience for a few weeks on a joint European tour in 1980.

Q: Where did you pick up your style, what were the first songs you learned?
A: I listened to every recording I could get of Albert Ammons, Meade “Lux” Lewis and Pete Johnson. In the beginning, I tried to learn as many of their tunes as possible. I would listen to the records, copy them on tapes and try to slow the tapes down so I could get more of the details of their playing. Some of the first tunes were “Death Ray Boogie”, “Kaycee On My Mind” and “Holler Stomp” by Pete Johnson, “Boogie Woogie Blues”, “Boogie Woogie Stomp” and “Shout For Joy” by Albert Ammons, “Yancey Special”, “Honky Tonk Train Blues” or “Randini’s Boogie” by Meade “Lux” Lewis, and “Boogie Woogie Prayer” by all three of them. After a while, I played 40 or 50 of their boogie woogie and blues tunes. Besides that, I would always experiment with the material I just had learned off the records, mix and change it and thus create new tunes. The goal was to develop my own, personal style while learning from the best of their music. Pretty soon, I tried a bit on other styles, like Champion Jack Dupree’s, but the Boogie Woogie Trio’s (Ammons-Lewis-Johnson) was my main influence.

Q: What was the first gig you ever went to, what are some of the memorable gigs you've had?
A: The first gig I played as a boogie woogie pianist (I had been performing on school concerts etc. with classical music already since the age of 8 years) was on February 3rd, 1973, together with my brother Torsten who played washboard then, with a traditional jazz band at the “Barett” club in Hamburg, Germany. I delivered some solo boogies in the intermission, while Torsten (14 years old then) played with the band. In my carreer, I had many memorable gigs, like concerts in New York at the Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall, at the Vienna Musikverein (one of the most prestigious places for classical music, to play boogie woogie there was extremely unusual). Very influential were the tour with Lionel Hampton, concerts with legends like Sippie Wallace, Jay McShann, Champion Jack Dupree (many of these concerts in context with the festival “Stars of Boogie Woogie”) and recently with Lila Ammons (Albert’s grand daughter) or The ABC&D of Boogie Woogie, with Ben Waters on piano as well, Dave Green on double bass and Charlie Watts on drums. And I’m very fond of the Japan tours I do with my  piano playing friend Keito Saito, the great boogie woogie ambassador of the Far East.

Q: Do you think that your music comes from the heart, the brain or the soul?
A: It comes from all these sources. You got to put your heart into it to make your soul sing. And your brain helps you to find the right keys!

Q: How was your recording hours with all your guests?
A: It was very exciting, particularly since most of these recordings were free improvisations, at least in the piano parts. It was an exchange of ideas and feelings. Particularly with the legends of this music, who had decades of experience, it was touching. Singers like Sippie Wallace or Mama Yancey conveyed all their life time experiences into their songs, which made it deeply emotional. Particularly Mama Yancey was unbelievable in that respect, she almost put herself into a trance when she sang, and you can hear it in the recordings. The combination of a youthful pianist with big love for the blues and boogie and the depth of experience of these legends was a very fruitful one. I was always proud if our joint efforts brought out particularly emotional and deep moments, as it has happened in each of these sessions.

Q: Of all the people you’ve meeting with, who do you admire the most?
A: Difficult to answer, there are so many great musicians, but also other people I’ve met, and each of them is very impressive in his own right to me.

Q: Of all the many albums you made, what was your favorite? What tracks are you really proud of?
A: I don’t have a particular favourite album, each of them has something special. Of course, I’m always fond of co-operations with inspiring co-musicians. Many of the tracks I’m particularly proud of are together with other musicians. For example, I really enjoy listening to the tracks with Big Joe Turner in which he sings spontaneously about the situation around him, making comments about his wife, his friends and naming them: “John’s And Louis’ Blues” (named after two of his friends present at the studio) and “Boogie Woogie Jubilee” (from his birthday party, with Eddie “Cleanhead” Vinson, Margie Evans and Roy Milton joining in with their vocal contributions). Big Joe was very apt in this type of improvisation. This helped him to beat his colleagues like Wynonie Harris when they had singing contests, and I don’t know of any other recordings of Joe where this has been documented. The only younger singer with whom I can do that spontaneously today is Lila Ammons. Another favourite of mine is the swinging intensity of “New York Shuffle” with Lionel Hampton, the depth of expression in “How Long Blues” with Sippie Wallace, “Midnight Plea” with Mama Yancey or “Bring Me Flowers” with Champion Jack Dupree. There are also quite exciting piano duets with Jay McShann, like “Jump ‘em Jay” or the tune “Joy At The Jazzland” for which Jay also created some lyrics about the Viennese club in which we played. “Running Late” is quite a tour-de-force with Red Holloway on the tenor sax, like “Heathrow Jet” with Dave Green and Charlie Watts. For my solo work, I like spirited improvisations the best which swing really freely, like “Eldorado Stomp”, “Blues On Top” or “H. M. Boogie”, the latter of 1976. That’s to name some of them, not all…

Q: What experiences in your life make you a GOOD musician, how do you want to be remembered?
A: You’re a good musician if you can integrate all your life experiences into your music. This will help you to develop your own personal expression. Live your life, and put it into your music. I’d like to be remembered as somebody who has helped to keep a style of music alive which was in danger to be forgotten, and who put some fresh life into it, together with fellow boogie woogie “ambassadors”.

Q: Which artists have you worked with & which of the people you have worked with do you consider the best?
A: The list of artists I have worked with is quite long, from Ray Bryant, Memphis Slim, Blind John Davis, Lafayette Leake, Big Joe Duskin, Bill Wyman, Al Casey, Leopold v. Knobelsdorff, Johnnie Johnson, Gene Harris, Duffy Jackson, Frank Muschalle, Bob Hall, George Green, Joe Newman, Bob Seeley, Abi Wallenstein to Gottfried Boettger and dozens more…! It’s hard to count them all, but they all had an impact on my playing. I also really want to mention our four-pianists’ boogie gang we had from the early 1970s on. The others besides me were the above mentioned Hans-Georg Moeller from Hamburg, Vince Weber from Hamburg and Martin Pyrker from Vienna. This group was the nucleus of the modern boogie woogie revival particularly in the German speaking countries. Each of us had his distinct favourite style and personal expression. Hans-Georg and Martin were particularly fond of the boogie woogie pioneers, like Jimmy Yancey, Montana Taylor and Cripple Clarence Lofton. Vince is a great singer, too, and he loved the more modern blues and boogie woogie piano styles of people like Otis Spann or Stevie Winwood. Vince had a very personal style from the start, with a lot of clusters and complicated bass figures. Vince and myself became professional musicians, while Hans-Georg and Martin were amateurs, but with professional skills. Vince and myself developed a following of personal fan groups, also of young pianists who were fond of either Vince’s or my style. These young pianists were quite competitive among the two groups, each of these followers wanted to outplay the others. This helped quite a lot to enhance the general interest in boogie woogie. Until today, I play with Vince in piano duet format. In 1976, Hans-Georg, Martin and myself (with my brother Torsten on drums) cut a record “Boogie Woogie Session ’76 – live in Vienna” which went into the LP album charts – just with original boogie woogie piano!

Q: Do you have any amusing tales to tell of your tour with Alexis Korner?
A: Alexis was always up-beat, and he loved the blues. I found it particularly memorable when he told me that one of his greatest goals in music was to be able to play piano like Albert Ammons. That was the first time I realized how much the great rock stars admire boogie woogie and consider it as one of the origins of their music. Later I met the same respect for this music with the members of The Rolling Stones, Fats Domino or Ringo Starr.

Q: I wonder if you could tell me a few things about your meet with Big Joe Turner
A: Joe, of course, was one of the very impressive people I’ve met. Both he and his wife Pat showed an overwhelming hospitality to us. Upon our arrival in Los Angeles in 1978, I’ve never met him in person, I’ve only seen one of his shows with Count Basie and Oscar Peterson in Hamburg in 1974. Hans Maitner had made the contact with Joe and was also with us in L.A. to supervise the session. Joe was very friendly, and I thought it was quite unusual that he had the confidence in us to record an album with him, although we had never met before. The first time I accompanied him was at a neighbour’s house. This neighbour had a piano (Joe and Pat didn’t own one), but was very religious. He allowed Joe and myself to rehearse, but nobody else was at their home, since the neighbour was embarrassed by Joe’s sometimes risky lyrics. It was such a great feeling to play for this boogie idol Big Joe Turner. Joe was absolutely at ease when he sang, rolling cigarettes while he was delivering his lyrics. At the studio of Johnny Otis, everything was going so fast, most songs were done at the first take. We insisted on some alternate songs (which weren’t really needed for just one album), so we were through after 4 ½  hours. Without the alternate songs, the whole thing would have been done in less than 3 hours. It was over before I had fully realized that we had completed the album. Joe and Pat kept contact with us after that, so a second album was done at Joe’s 70th birthday party at their home in 1981. I think this was his first full live album with audience. Both albums were milestones for me, both for my carreer as well as for my musical development. The first one, “Let’s Boogie Woogie All Night Long”, was given the “German Record Award” in 1979.

Q: How did you first meet Champion Jack Dupree? Three words to describe him
A: Champion Jack Dupree moved to Hannover, Germany, in 1975 and lived there until his death in 1992. His residency was less than 100 miles away from my home. We first met at the “1st International Boogie Woogie and Blues Festival” of WDR radio in Cologne, Germany, in 1974, and then more frequently from about 1976 on when I played engagements at the “Blues Meile” club in Hannover which Jack co-operated with a friend, Jens Ploetz. From 1979 on, Jack and myself played joint concerts, mostly at two pianos. Both of us were working for Karsten Jahnke’s concert agency in Hamburg, which enabled us to tour together pretty often. Jack was full of fun. He was one of the most powerful people I’ve met regarding the delivery of emotions. In a performance, he could make you laugh exuberantly and change to deep sadness and back to cheering within a few moments. When he entered a room, it would take him no more than 10 seconds to be the center of attention, regardless who else was in the place. The icon of a blues piano entertainer.

Q: What do you “think” about Johnny Otis & Sippie Wallace?
A: It’s sad that Johnny is gone now. We had a ball jamming in his studio after the recordings with Big Joe Turner had been finished. Johnny played vibraphone then, which gave a forecast to my later work with Lionel Hampton. We also played four-handed piano at his house. Great fun! About Sippie: one of the nicest ladies I have met. She was so sincere in her art, straight from the pioneer days of vaudeville blues. Back in 1923, he was one of the first black artists to be recorded, and it was fascinating to experience her sense of timing, the quiet power of her songs. The entire heritage of blues was in her vocals, and that gave me a tremendous lift in my journey to the heart of the blues.

Q: You have traveling all around the world. What are your conclusions?
A: Boogie woogie and blues is an international language of music. Its drive and sound fascinates people around the world, also those, who have never heard it or have never seen or heard a piano. It’s the excitement and intensity of this music, particular through its rhythmic power, which delivers so well to all types of audiences, in Europe as well as in Africa, America or Asia, where I have experienced this.

Q: To which person do you want to send one from your songs?
A: I’ve dedicated some tunes to certain people, like “D & F Blues” to my first wife and my son, “Fun For Felix” to my son, “Little Eva’s Dance” to my daughter, “Eva’s Pleasure” to my wife, “Boogie-Mom and Woogie-Dad” to my parents, “Brothers’ Boogie” to my brother and myself, “H. M. Boogie” to Hans Maitner, etc. etc. …

Q: What do you think is the main characteristic of your personality that made you a musician?
A: What about musicality? And I like to communicate and co-operate with others, so I love to create tunes together with others, preferably improvisations.

Q: How is your relationship with Charlie Watts?
A: I first played with Charlie Watts in a TV documentary about the history of boogie woogie, labelled “A Left Hand Like God”, in England in 1986. Since then, we’ve met a few times before we started The ABC&D of Boogie Woogie with Ben Waters and Dave Green. It’s a very relaxed, swinging way of making music. We love to improvise freely within the blues and boogie woogie field, and that is exciting and spontaneous. It’s a constant interplay amongst the musicians, and Charlie obviously enjoys it very much. Like this, we have done more than 60 concerts until now (February, 2012), with more to come. And Charlie is a perfect gentleman, very nice to be with.

Q: Are there any memories from “Stars Of Boogie Woogie tour” which you’d like to share with us?
A: These tours derived from the first Vienna boogie woogie festival concert at Konzerthaus in 1976 (with Vince Weber, Hans-Georg Moeller, Martin Pyrker and myself). From 1980 on, we invited some of the great still active original boogie and blues musicians, such as Sammy Price, Memphis Slim, Eddie Boyd, Lowell Fulson, Little Willie Littlefield, Katie Webster, Big Jay McNeely, Sippie Wallace and many more. There were quite a few funny episodes: in 1981, a fan entered the Vienna Konzerthaus stage to congratulate Vince (it was the latter’s birthday) and show his excitement, but was about to ruin the show. Our friend Hans Maitner took him by his jacket, moved him backstage and locked him up in a case. In 1985, at the London Palladium, Big Jay McNeely wanted to enter the stage by walking through the audience to start his show, while the Mojo Blues Band was already doing their accompanyment, and walking Jay was already playing his tenor sax along with the band. By error, he took a door to the outside which locked behind him, and he stood in the street in icy cold while still keeping playing. He couldn’t find a way back into the hall until somebody helped him and showed him his way back, so he could finally enter the stage after about 5 minutes of tenor sax honking without being visible to the audience. In 1988, the tour bus was held up for a check at the German-Austrian border, and Jay McShann together with the bass player and drummer who were with us left the bus. The young guys started to play frisbee at the border checkpoint. They all got their passports stamped in a special way (at the time, passports wouldn’t be stamped when you would cross that border), obviously denouncing their misbehaviour.

Q: Why did you think that Axel, continued to generate such a devoted following?
A: Like my close musical friends, I always thought that boogie woogie is a great music form in its own right, not just an offshot of the blues or a one-number feature for a pianist in a rock’n’roll or jazz band. I thoroughly enjoy playing boogie woogie and the blues, and I think it’s a very exciting and satisfying music. Obviously, I manage to convey that to the listeners and also other players. I put all my energy into developing an ever intensifying approach to the music, and I think, “work for the music, so the music will work for you”. Obviously, other people like to follow the results from that motto. What also helped a lot is the book of sheet music we issued, a transcription of a whole album of mine (Boogie Woogie live) with my compositions. These were the first non-simplified, non-shortened transcriptions of boogie woogie which allow the player to see all the refinements of the style and technique. This has generated a great progress in pianistic skills for boogie woogie with the younger players.

Q: How much of their old music do they still play? Describe the ideal rhythm section to you?
A: Some of the younger players stay true to the original boogie woogie style, others tend to move away into different musical or entertainment fields, still benefitting from the days when they used to play this really two-handed music. An ideal rhythm section swings greatly, with transparency, so that everybody can develop their personal strongholds in the tune. For example, when I play with Charlie Watts and Dave Green, I give a lot of solo space to the double bass of Dave, almost giving him the position of a featured soloist. This works very well, since Dave Green is one of the best and most experienced jazz bassists today. In most other cases I play with just a drummer, not with a bass player, because the lines of a bassists are quite frequently in competition with the left hand of the boogie woogie piano.

Q: Who are some of your favorite blues musician of today & what was the last record you bought?
A: There are numerous very gifted and impressive artists today, but the number of piano players is quite limited. Among the blues pianists today, Julien Brunetaud is very good, and some of the jiving rhythm and blues bands in 1940s/1950s style are impressively powerful, like the Blue Flagships. The lasts record I bought were actually vintage shellack 78s from the 1940s, a Mercury of Muggsy Spanier’s Dixieland Band, called “Lazy Piano Man”, and “Heavy Laden” by the Joe Sullivan Trio on Sunset. Both jazz influenced bluesy titles. Surprised? You see, I still love that “old jive”!

Q: How do you get inspiration for your songs & what musicians have influenced you most as a songwriter?
A: Sometimes the tunes just happen by improvisation, some are composed in the sense, that I create chorus after chorus, with each note to be set in the right place. When I composed my cycle of train boogies, I worked it out like that, and a number of other tunes were made like this. I try to find my own melodies and harmonies for that, but still stay true to the spirit of authentic boogie woogie and blues.

Q: Some music styles can be fads but the blues is always with us.  Why do think that is? Give one wish for the BLUES
A: Blues is a powerful and honest-to-god music which describes just the life as so many people experience it. It’s a natural language of feelings. Therefore, it’s strong enough to sustain another 150 years, like it has done before. I hope (and am certain that this will happen) that the blues continues to attract young and gifted musicians who give their love and talent to this music. Then it’ll be with us for a long time to come.

Q: Three words to describe your sound & progress, in which songs can someone hear the best of your work?
A: I try to make the piano “sing”, and I think I’ve got closer to that goal with the years. I like to create melodies out of the blues and boogie woogie context, and in my opinion, my best work is carrying such melodic strains. This is of course influenced by the blues work, but it is important to develop your own sense of melodies, rhythms and harmonies.

Q: When it all began for the boogie woogie  music & who is considered the "godfather" of  the Boogie Woogie?
A: About a hundred years ago, pianists were reported to have used the rolling left hand figures of boogie woogie to accompany their blues numbers, thus creating an exciting dance music. The origins haven’t been documented, so it’s a certain uncertaincy about the beginnings. The “godfather” of the boogie woogie was of course Clarence “Pine Top” Smith. He gave his dance number the title “Boogie Woogie”, which stuck to the music since he recorded it in 1928. He didn’t invent the style, but he named it.

Q: What do you think are the landmark albums for the boogie woogie, what characterized the sound of Boogie Woogie?
A: The sound of boogie woogie can be very varied, because the pianists who developed it came from different regions, and each region had a distinct style and sound. People from Texas would use more striding basses, combined with sometimes flamboyant right hand figures. A great exponent of that was Hersal Thomas, the youngest brother of singer Sippie Wallace, and a big influence on Albert Ammons. In the St. Louis area, pianists would like a strong four-to-the-bar beat in simple, even chords played with the left hand. In Louisiana and New Orleans, the blues would be mixed with carribbean calypso-beats and tangos, which is a trademark until today. The “classic” boogie pianists had a very powerful, almost machine-like drive and beat, like the Ammons-Lewis-Johnson tradition. All these variations produce characteristic boogie sounds and are represented on albums. A landmark album of course is the “Eight To The Bar” album of Pete Johnson and Albert Ammons, played on two pianos, and the Blue Note albums of Ammons, Lewis and Johnson. I also love the Atlantic album of Jimmy and Mama Yancey. There are really great albums of this music, until today.

Q: Which of historical blues personalities would you like to meet?
A: Mainly the pianists, of course. Jimmy Yancey, Albert Ammons, Hersal Thomas, Cripple Clarence Lofton, Montana Taylor, Meade “Lux” Lewis, Pete Johnson, James P. Johnson. And singers like Jimmy Rushing, Helen Humes, Julia Lee, just name them. T-Bone Walker would have been great to meet, Lucille Bogan, Otis Spann… I was fortunate to meet quite a number of now historical blues personalities. I once even met Muddy Waters. But most of the great pioneers of boogie woogie had been gone when I started out with the boogie woogie.

Q: What’s your passion, what turns you on? The Magic of Trains, how did this project come about?
A: I have quite a few passions: music, life in general, love… The Magic Of Trains (my book about steam trains in the night) came about because I did night photography on steam trains in the 1990s, with a large-scale camera (analog, of course), 50 flash lights, 1 ½ miles of synchronization wire and so on. These photos came out quite powerful, pictures like boogie woogie. In this book, I combine my night photography with music, since there is a boogie woogie CD with train tunes going with the book. It had quite an impact in the train lovers’ scene, many of which now appear at my concerts. I also play at train locations like loco sheds from time to time.

Q: I wonder if you could tell me a few things about the story of Dampf Plus GmbH & Concert Express
A: I founded Dampf-Plus with two friends of mine. The goal was to put some extraordinary steam express locomotives back to running condition, after they had been withdrawn from hauling trains. One of them is 18 201, the fastest operable steam engine today (she is licensed to run up to 180 km/h). This was successful in that respect, that both of the steam engines we reanimated are still running today. The Concert Express is a program of live concerts and dinner at a steam train while travelling through the landscape. Quite fun and quite an experience!

Q: What are some of your favorite boogie woogie standards?
A: Meade “Lux” Lewis’ “Honky Tonk Train Blues” and “Chicago Flyer”, Albert Ammons’ “Boogie Woogie Stomp” and “Bass Goin’ Crazy”, Pete Johnson’s “Roll’em Pete” and “Dive Bomber”, Montana Taylor’s “Detroit Rocks”, Clarence “Pine Top” Smith’s “Pine Top’s Boogie Woogie”, Jimmy Yancey’s “Yancey Stomp” and so on – there are so many of them!

Q: I would like to put a song - that characterizes them - next to the names & words: Dana Gillespie, Railway stations, Train, Piano, Big Joe Duskin, Red Holloway & Axel Zwingenberger.
A: Dana: “Come On If You’re Coming”; Railway stations: “How Long Blues”; Train: “Honky Tonk Train Blues” and “Thundertrain”; Piano: “Gespraech mit dem Piano” by Hans-Georg Moeller; Big Joe Duskin: “Down The Road A Piece”; Red Holloway: “Hoodoo Man”; Axel Zwingenberger: “Boogie Woogie Be With Me”.

Axel Zwingenberger's website

                                        Photo Credits: Miss-Sophie, Barbara Mürdter, Alex Dobias

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