Brown, Mel: 16th Anniversary Show 2: More Today Than Yesterday

Mel Brown: 16th Anniversary Show 2: More Today Than Yesterday
Title: 16th Anniversary Show 2: More Today Than Yesterday
Artist: Brown, Mel
Label: CD Baby
UPC: 672617074622
Genre: Jazz

The MEL BROWN B-3 ORGAN GROUP, dubbed 'Jimmy Mak's signature band' by The Oregonian, has been performing at the famed NW venue on Thursday nights for sixteen years and counting. When George Benson heard the group, he said, 'If this band played in New York City, they'd be a sensation!' The Oregonian's Kyle O'Brien described the band's unique style as 'captivating...the sound of spontaneity.' And in his review of the performance captured the band's two new live CD's, 'Ticket To Ride' and 'More Today Than Yesterday,' The Oregonian's David Greenwald wrote that the band, 'takes a jazz blowtorch to pop history!' Adding to the excitement the new recordings is special guest trumpeter Thara Memory, a 2013 Grammy winner for his arranging work with former pupil Esperanza Spalding. Memory's trumpet playing is featured on the swinging 'Blues For J,' and his hilarious vocals highlight 'Five Dollah Blues.' Past festival appearances by the Mel Brown B-3 Organ Group include: the Mt Hood Jazz Festival, the PDX Jazz Festival, Jazz at Newport ('03), the Safeway Waterfront Blues Festival (with Phil Upchurch), the Britt Festival (opening for George Benson in '03 and for Mary Wilson in '07), the Bite of Portland, the Rose Festival, Jazz in the Valley, the Port Townsend Jazz Festival, Jazz at the Oxford, and more. - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - From The Oregonian: an 11-15-13 review of the performance captured on the band's two new CDs, 'Ticket To Ride' and 'More Today Than Yesterday': Live review: 'THE MEL BROWN B-3 ORGAN GROUP BRINGS HEAT, LAUGHTER TO ANNIVERSARY SHOW' By David Greenwald Thursday evening was creeping toward the midnight hour at Jimmy Mak's and Thara Memory was advising the room on women. 'You gotta give 'em an allowance!' The trumpeter sang-spoke with comic enthusiasm. '$5!' In front of him, laughter. Around him, the Mel Brown B-3 Organ Group kept the blues humming. 'Baby,' Memory went on, 'You gotta go to Walmart!' There was an $8 cover charge on Thursday, but at any price, the concert was a bargain. The quintet, with Memory joining for their second set, has been playing together for 16 years, 7 of them at Jimmy Mak's current location, and their chemistry would impress Walter White. The B-3 Organ Group's shows take a jazz blowtorch to pop history, and from 'Moondance' to 'House of the Rising Sun,' no song went unscathed. 'Don't hurt 'em, Mel!' someone called out as the bandleader finally allowed himself a long, raucous solo over an hour into the set. They opened with Leon Spencer's 'Hip Shaker,' the song turning to fireworks as saxophonist Renato Caranto and guitarist Dan Balmer reminded the crowd what they'd come for with back-to-back solos. Sometimes the heat lessened: the band turned mellow on 'My Girl,' and Balmer led a quiet, romantic 'Let's Get It On' with plucked chords. 'That's fast,' Louis Pain, anchoring the evening on the B-3, said as they opened 'Let It Be,' the second Beatles song of the night, and they started again. Announced guest 'Sweet Baby' James was feeling under the weather and missed the gig, but Memory (an original member of the group) was a lively presence on vocals and trumpet in the second set, as was percussionist Curtis Craft, who took the opportunity to showcase his extensive kit. But it was hard not to linger on Brown, whose face was fixed in a smile through most of the night. The man's earned it: perhaps he was moved by the anniversary, or the knowledge that the band was recording the set for a live album. Or, in his third show of the week, the schedule he keeps every week, he was just having fun. - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - Here's a HISTORY OF THE BAND, thru the Spring of 2014: The Mel Brown B-3 Organ Group, called "Jimmy Mak's signature band" by The Oregonian, recently celebrated it's sixteenth year playing on Thursday nights at the noted Pearl District music venue. That's a remarkably long run, but while the band was brand new when it debuted at Jimmy Mak's in 1997, it's roots extend back even further. In 1997, most Portland music fans were familiar with Mel Brown as the dean of Portland jazz drummers and for his earlier stint as a Motown staff drummer (working with the likes of Diana Ross, Martha Reeves, Smokey Robinson, and the Temptations). But before that, Mel had gigged around the NW with Billy Larkin & the Delegates, a funky organ group. (The band had a regional hit record, "The Pygmy," which was covered by Booker T & the MG's.) Similarly, in 1997 organist Louis "King Louie" Pain was known to Portlanders for his work with the late great Portland bluesman Paul deLay and with soul singer Linda Hornbuckle, but his roots were in the soul-jazz organ group genre. In the mid-seventies, back in his native Bay Area, Louis had cut his teeth playing in an organ group led by Bay Area sax legend Jules Broussard, who Mel had actually worked with a few years earlier. Mel and Louis didn't learn of this connection until they'd been playing together for some time. But when Brown first heard Pain in late '96, playing a soul-jazz organ group gig in Lake Oswego, that familiar sound got his imagination going. Later, when Mel sat down with Jimmy Mak and bartender JD Stubenberg to discuss what kind of music to bring into their new music venue, Mel thought of Louis and that funky, swinging organ group sound. Choosing the rest of the band members for the Mel Brown B-3 Organ Group was easy. Mel's musical right hand man, Florida-born trumpeter Thara Memory (a 2013 Grammy winner), had deep roots in soul-jazz. Guitarist Dan Faehnle, who played regularly with Mel and Thara, was a bluesy jazz player who had played in Louis' Lake Oswego band. And saxophonist Renato Caranto was the most exciting and soulful young sax player in town. Within a month of the group's inaugural Jimmy Mak's gig, customers were lining up down the block on Thursday nights. The band's unrehearsed-yet-tight Hammond B-3-anchored style (featuring organ bass), dubbed "the sound of spontaneity" by The Oregonian, was something totally new to the young, hip Pearl District audiences. Adding to the coolness of the gig: mixed in with the young fans were some veterans of Portland's '50s & '60s jump jazz scene--rooting the band on and, in the case of Sweet Baby James Benton, occasionally sitting in. In a stroke of good timing, the club was launching just as the Pearl District was taking off, and Thursday nights at Jimmy Mak's became a phenomenon. There was even a huge mural of the band on a building just across the river from the Pearl District. The excitement of those early years is captured in the group's first CD, "Live At Jimmy Mak's," recorded in March, 1999. Memory, Faehnle, and Caranto exchange long, scorching solos, punctuated by improvised breaks & horn riffs and backed by Louis & Mel's funky grooves. The material ranges from the Jimmy Smith bluesy jazz classic, "Back At the Chicken Shack," to the smooth Philly Soul ballad, "Betcha By Golly Wow," with a stop along the way for "The Pygmy." The group's second CD, "Live At the Britt Festival," was recorded in September, 2003. The group was opening for George Benson, with whom Mel had worked while living in New York in the '70s. Benson was all-out in his enthusiasm for the B-3 group, saying, 'If this band played in New York City, they'd be a sensation!" By this time, Thara Memory had left the group, and Dan Balmer had replaced Dan Faehnle on guitar, but as the recording shows, the group had lost none of it's fire. Three years later, Jimmy Mak's moved to new, fancier digs a half block away from it's original location at the corner of NW 10th & Everett. Soon after the move, in June, 2006, the group recorded it's third CD, the appropriately-titled "Smokin' At Jimmy's." This was the group's first recording with percussionist Curtis Craft. The CD captures the band's evolving sound: still fiery & spontaneous, but with the improvised arrangements more cohesiv


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Brown, Mel: 16th Anniversary Show 2: More Today Than Yesterday


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