Glory and injustice

Is bass legend Chuck Rainey falling through the cracks?

These days, Rainey has a penchant for playing prisons: Huntsville, Angola, the Boys Correctional Institute in Shreveport. He doesn't get paid, but often fits in a nearby bass clinic. "I'm doing it as a service," he explains. "I'm trying to get points for heaven, but I'm not a preacher. Kids in prison aren't grown; they listen. At Riker's Island last month, out of 400 people who started out, 50 were left. Most of those guys don't wanna hear nothin'."

Chuck Rainey also does 30 gigs a year with Herbie Mann and joins other all-star bands with his circle of fellow session players: Fathead Newman, Tom Scott, Ralph McDonald, Hugh McCracken, Cornell Dupree, and Les McCann. They tour France, Germany, and Japan. He has six bass guitar textbooks (and a seventh sold during the course of this interview), and six instruction videos.

He might headline the Majestic Theatre as part of Herbie Mann's group, but he can't score a gig at the Caravan of Dreams, Terelli's, Club Dada, or the West End--joints where even amateurs can cut their teeth, and the lack of hometown gigs is a thorn in his side. If Rainey were hard to work with, or unreasonable, he couldn't possibly have done decades of elite session work, the most delicate craft in the music industry. His local jazz-fusion trio flies to resorts far out of town.

"I'm a player," he says, "so I want to play.

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