Live at the Waterfront Park Blues Festival
[CD review from The Oregonian, 9-16-05] Come and Get It By Marty Hughley The Oregonian When you notice something cookin', the first and usually wisest impulse is to come around and get some while it's hot. That maxim is the defining characteristic of the debut release from King Louie & Baby James, a hard-grooving band led by Hammond B-3 organ ace Louis Pain and the singer who is known as Sweet Baby James but definitely is not to be confused with James Taylor. Baby James is something of a living legend in Portland's jazz community, from his many years as both a musician and a kind of defacto social director. Pain, having cast his lot with the B-3 during the decades when it was out of fashion, has made his mark as a right-hand man to such revered Portland bandleaders as Paul deLay and Mel Brown. Once these two talents decided to team up, they didn't waste any time before serving up something tasty. In fact, the performance captured on 'Live at the Waterfront Park Blues Festival 2005' was only the quintet's third gig. Actually, though, it was a sextet for this show: in case guitarist Peter Dammann, who serves as talent coordinator for the mammoth festival, got called away midset, Pain called in support from the superb jazz/blues/gospel pianist Janice Scroggins. Baby James balances easy-going charm and soulful grit on ballads such as 'Georgia On My Mind' and 'Help Me Make It Through the Night' and the bedroom blues 'All I Want To Do.' Though excessive echo shows up on (or rather, after) his voice on occasion, it's not enough to distract. Saxophonist Renato Caranto, who also plays with Pain in one of Brown's bands, makes his horn strut and growl, soar and cry sweetly. Yet even in his company, Scroggins' at once churchy and earthy piano delivers the most striking solos. The band's blend of blues, soul and jazz really comes together, though, in the interplay between Pain's jabbed and smeared chords and understated bass lines and the fluidly funky authority of Anthony Jones, surely one of the best young drummers in the Northwest. - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [Band profile] KING LOUIE & BABY JAMES: Louis Pain, as a key member of the Paul deLay Band and Mel Brown's popular B-3 Organ Group, has led the Portland, OR-area's revival of the Hammond organ sound. And Sweet Baby James has been one of the most soulful vocalists in the Northwest since the heyday of the legendary Williams Avenue scene in the '50s and '60s. Together, Louis and James are simply dynamite. Filling out this exciting group are the soulful Renato Caranto on sax; Anthony Jones, one of the most versatile and sought-after young drummers in the Northwest; and searing blues guitarist Peter Dammann, long-time member of the Paul deLay Band and, more recently, the DK-4. The performance captured on the band's first CD ('Live at the Waterfront Blues Festival') was called 'exemplary' by The Oregonian and was rated one of the highlights of that year's event (rated one of the top blues festivals in the world). This CD is the real deal, capturing the spontaneity, excitement, and soulfulness of a great blues/jazz band with absolutely no editing. - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 'King Louie' Pain, organ: San Francisco transplant Louis Pain has been dubbed 'Portland's Boss of the B-3' by The Oregonian. He's anchored Mel Brown's popular B-3 Organ Group for over eleven years while also performing & recording with numerous other top local artists, including the late, great Paul deLay, Curtis Salgado (the original 'Blues Brother'), Linda Hornbuckle, and Tom Grant. With deLay, Louis toured internationally and recorded four well-received CDs on the Evidence label. Louis has also worked with drum legend Bernard 'Pretty' Purdie, Tower of Power guitarist Bruce Conte, Santana saxophonist Jules Broussard, and many others. As Kyle O'Brien of The Oregonian wrote, 'Louis Pain adds the soul with his expressive organ playing.' 'Sweet Baby James', vocals: Long considered one of the most soulful singers in the Northwest, 'Sweet Baby' started his career in the '50s singing with such west coast vocal jazz groups as The Audios and The Del-Tones. James' style is reminiscent of Ray Charles, but in fact James developed his approach independently, then was dismayed when Charles began having hits that sounded like him! James has been a fixture in Portland since his days running 'The Backyard,' an after-hours club that was prominent during the Williams Avenue heyday of the 50's and 60's. During those days, James influenced and mentored many younger musicians, including drum great Mel Brown. More recently, James sang with the Original Cats. As Willamette Week wrote, 'Soul shouter Benton is a human landmark of Portland jazz.' - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [CD review] 'Live At The Waterfront Blues Festival 2005' King Louie & Baby James By Greg Johnson, President of the Cascade Blues Association It's opening day of the 2005 Waterfront Blues Festival in Portland, and the conditions are just right for such an event, with warm, sunny weather and a steady crowd filling the park. Just a few hours into the day, the sounds of a Hammond B-3 and honking saxophone begin to waft over the audience, drawing attention to the North Stage. There's an incredibly jazzy feel behind the groove that shouts out, 'Hey, an organ is not just for sporting events, church, or skating rinks, people!' And it's all being complemented by superb and steady guitar bends, piano, and rhythmic drumming. Wow! The instrumentals coming from this stage are enough to draw raucous cheers from the enchanted audience now streaming before the group and dancing enthusiastically. It's then that the big man walks to the stage, takes the mike set up there, and brings the crowd to pure ecstasy when he begins to sing with his sugar-smooth voice. The group is King Louie & Baby James, and the set proved to be one of those unexpected highlights that created memories that last from a festival quickly approaching it's 20th anniversary and boasting some of the finest blues artists of all time as past performers. This set definitely falls in with the best of this celebrated history. With the line-up making up this group, how can you possibly go wrong? King Louie is none other than Louis Pain, long-time renowned keyboardist in the Portland area and former member of the Paul deLay Band. There is perhaps no one person who can work a Hammond to greater perfection than this man; he is a student of and master of the instrument. Sweet Baby James has been blessing the city's music scene for the past five decades with a voice that can bring grown men to tears and women weak in their knees with his clarity and soulfulness. Then there's Peter Dammann, one of the most complimenting guitar players behind anybody, and Renato Caranto's soaring skills working the saxophone. Pain's organ is offset impressively by mesmerizing piano offered by the great Janice Scroggins, and it's all kept in rhythm by Anthony Jones, a drummer whose name will soon be on the lips of everybody in this town. Having just an hour to perform and to convince an audience of your talents is not much time. But it's more than enough to showcase a grouping as wonderful as this. This set came off with such precise flow, which is captured masterfully in this live recording. And you should take note that there has been no studio alteration on this CD. What you hear here is exactly how it was heard at the festival. Pulsating instrumentals and silky vocals on time-cherished numbers such as 'Georgia On My Mind' and 'Help Me Make It Through the Night.' If you're looking for a special recording that will bring back the sensation of the Waterfront Park Blues Festival on one of those magical occasions, you'd be hard-pressed to find any better representation.