Keyboardist Ray Manzarek met his bandmates in The Doors at a Transcendental Meditation lecture, so pioneering 21st-century blues isn’t much of a stretch.
Collaborating with slide guitarist Roy Rogers (John Lee Hooker) on the new “Translucent Blues” album, Manzarek serves as co-conductor of a rhythm section that includes bassist Steve Evans (Elvin Bishop) and drummer Kevin Hayes (Robert Cray Band).
The act performs Friday at the UCO Jazz Lab.
“Roy and I float over the top of this runaway train,” Manzarek said, noting their 21st-century blues aren’t your standard 1-4-5 structure with a line, repeat and answer. For example, the lyrics are penned by Jim Carroll, Warren Zevon and poets Michael McClure and Michael C. Ford.
“We’re stretching the blues structure to take it someplace else, but it’s still the blues,” Manzarek said.
A Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee as part of The Doors, he is candid about how live performances make him feel.
“I grit my teeth. It’s a man’s orgasmic trip going on,” he said, noting that music is a matter of vibration — of getting in-tune and not needing to wink an eye for a chord change. “We can feel it instinctively, so you develop a third person. That’s sort of the angel of music that puts the two of us — and now the four of us — onto the same plane of vibration. If you don’t, I don’t know what the hell you’re doing up there.”
Rogers, who shares a manager with Manzarek, also splits vocal duties with him.
“The blues guys, they had something,” Rogers said. “What did they have? Well, that’s undefinable, but we all need to try to search for that.”
Manzarek said music scribes have likened their performances to his former quartet with The Lizard King, Jim Morrison.
“Critics have said this: ‘God, it sounds like The Doors!’ I never think of it that way,” he said. “I play the way I play, (but) you’re going to hear a Doors influence.”
For the record, Manzarek prefers the 2009 Johnny Depp-narrated “When You’re Strange” documentary to Oliver Stone’s 1991 biopic, which he panned as an untrue, “over-thetop” exaggeration.
“(That’s) Oliver Stone as a rock star in leather pants,” said Manzarek. “That’s not Jim Morrison. Jim Morrison was a poet, he was an artist, he was a very funny guy. What I like about the documentary is you get the sense of humor and lightness of Jim Morrison. In the Oliver Stone movie, there’s no lightness … but it’s easy to understand. So, God bless.”
Click below to check out the sampler for “Translucent Blues.”