Mel Brown B-3 Organ Group
2014
Lennon/McCartney

Story

In order to celebrate the 16th anniversary of the Mel Brown B-3 Organ Group's regular Thursday night gig at Portland's Jimmy Mak's, the group recorded live at the club in November, 2013.  Not certain we'd gotten enough good takes for a CD, we recorded again in January, 2014.  But when we listened back to the tracks, we realized we now had too much material for one CD--so we released a pair!  In describing the first live recording session, The Oregonian's David Greenwald wrote that the band, "takes a jazz blowtorch to pop history!"

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Mel Brown B-3 Organ Group
2014
Upton

Story

This is "Volume 2" of the pair of Mel Brown B-3 Organ Group CD's that were recorded in celebration of the 16th anniversary of the band's regular Thursday night gig at Portland's Jimmy Mak's.  Here is Downbeat's Frank-John Hadley's review of the CD: 

“Something special happens when this local quintet appears at Jimmy Mak’s jazz club in Portland, OR.  Playing “Hip Shaker” and “House of the Rising Sun,” saxophonist Renato Caranto works himself into a state of wild excitement worthy of a honking tenorman walking the bar in R&B’s golden age.  On the aforementioned and most of the other well-played songs, drummer Mel Brown, guitarist Dan Balmer and swinging organ player Louis Pain evince a more temperate but equally convincing affinity for the blues.”

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Soul Vaccination, Featuring Bruce Conte
S. Kupka, E. Castillo, D. Garibaldi

Story

Tower of Power guitarist Bruce Conte and I were Berkeley, CA roommates when the band cut the original version of this tune back in 1973.  These days, Bruce lives in the Philippines, but we've stayed in touch and looked for an opportunity to play together again.  That opportunity came in July, 2011, when I arranged for Bruce to play a series of gigs in Portland, including a live recording at Jimmy Mak's with Soul Vaccination.  Downbeat Magazine gave the CD 4 1/2 stars (out of five).  This track is a re-imagining of TOP's iconic "What Is Hip?" as a guitar feature.  The band was on fire, especially drummer Edwin Coleman III and Mr. Conte himself!

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Mel Brown B-3 Organ Group
Louis Pain

Story

Opening for George Benson at the Britt Festival in southern Oregon, Mel Brown asked me to "take it to church" while he walked to his drums after introducing our set from the front of the stage.  (We actually segued from this impromptu "warm-up" to the first tune of our set.)

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Linda Hornbuckle with No Delay
Lieber/Stoller

Story

Linda had been Portland's top "soul diva" for some time before she recorded her first CD: this "meeting" with the Paul deLay Band.  (Paul deLay was incarcerated at the time.)  This track is a funky arrangement of Hound Dog, featuring the deLay band's "horn section": B-3 & tenor sax.  I developed this approach in the early 70's, playing in Bay Area soul bands with just one horn.  Saxophonist Dan Fincher and I took the solos here, while Peter Dammann (guitar), Ben Jones (bass),and Brian Foxworth (drums) laid down that funky groove.  Guest percussionist Bobby Torres helped with the arrangement.  As for Linda, she was, well, Linda!

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King Louie & Baby James
Traditional

Story

This song was part of a set recorded at the '05 Safeway Waterfront Blues Festival.  It was only the band's third gig together, and we didn't expect to be recorded.  But the music went great and we released the CD.  On this blues shuffle, saxophonist Renato Caranto plays a great solo.  The band also included Peter Dammann, guitar; Anthony Jones, drums, and guest pianist Janice Scroggins.

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The Paul deLay Band
deLay/Pain

Story

Most of the Ocean of Tears tunes were composed by the late, great Paul deLay while he was incarcerated, then fine-tuned by the band prior to recording them post-release.  But Paul wrote this song after his release.  I helped Paul with the chord progression--showing him different options on his little Casio keyboard!  As always, the brilliant lyrics were all Paul's.  Guest pianist Janice Scroggins played beautifully.

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Mel Brown B-3 Organ Group
S. Morris

Story

This CD is a direct-off-the-mixing-board recording of a set the band played opening for George Benson--no mixing or editing whatsoever.  But none was needed: the live engineer had ears, and the band was "on."  Mel loves to segue from one tune to the next; when he was a Motown sideman, he saw how entertaining medleys are.  In the case of this tune, we not only segued into and out of it: there's a segue into and out of another song (a blues shuffle) in mid-tune!  None of this was planned in advance; spontaneity is the name of the game when you play with Mel Brown!

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Curtis Salgado
Braggs/Malone

Story

Curtis--the powerhouse performer who inspired "The Blues Brothers"--brought me in to play a few tracks on his "Wiggle Out Of This" CD back in '99.  This track featured some churchy organ.

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Howard Tate
J. Ragovoy

Story

I was very saddened to hear of Howard Tate's recent passing.  He was one of the all-time soul singing greats, and a very nice man to boot.  I was fortunate enough to play with Howard at the Waterfront Blues Festival back in '02.  That was a great experience, but better yet was having him come and rehearse at my Gresham home the day before.  I had trouble believing it was really Howard at first, but when he started singing the chorus of the first song, there was no mistaking that voice.  We all looked at each other like, "Holy ****, that's Howard Tate here in the garage with us!!"  This track is a crude cassette recording of that memorable moment.  The fidelity and mix are poor; Howard is buried.  But, again: that's Howard Tate!!  Rest in peace, Howard.  (Also playing were Willie Barber, bass; Reinhardt Melz, drums; Jay Koder, guitar; and the Uptown Horns.)

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Mel Brown B-3 Organ Group
J. Weatherly

Story

This live CD best captures what the Mel Brown B-3 Organ Group has been doing at Portland's Jimmy Mak's on Thursday nights for fifteen years and running.  I like the slow way this arrangement of Gladys Knight's classic song develops.  Saxman Renato Caranto definitely lives up to his nicknames: "Soul Finger" and "The Thrilla From Manila!"

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Soul Vaccination
Clarence Reid; Betty Wright

Story

This track, part of the CD "Souled Out at Jimmy Mak's," was recorded just a few weeks into my four-year stint in Dave Mills' exciting horn band, Soul Vaccination.  In fact, the live recording was just my third gig with the band.  But I love the tune and vocalist Gigi Wiggins' performance.  Plus, there's an organ solo!

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Linda Hornbuckle with No Delay
Ronnie Shannon

Story

On this Aretha Franklin cover from the 1994 No Delay Band CD, Glenn Holstrom (from Lloyd Jones' band) wrote a great horn chart.  The rhythm section of Brian Foxworth (drums) and Ben Jones (bass) laid down a smoking groove.  And Linda was her electrifying self!

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Tom Grant
Tom Grant

Story

In '01, smooth jazz pioneer and best-seller Tom Grant asked me to lay down some organ tracks on his Reprise CD--a re-imagining of some of his hits.  I was honored because Tom is a great keyboardist himself.  I like this "dreamy" tune in particular.

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The Paul deLay Band
deLay/Pain

Story

We recorded Paulzilla--my second CD with the Paul deLay Band-- under the shadow of Paul deLay's impending incarceration.  Paul was driven to get a batch of songs recorded that he had in his head.  The CD ended up being declared 1993's "Album of the Year" by both the Portland Music Association and the Cascade Blues AssociationDon't Feel Nothin' is a harmonica romp that was already composed when Paul brought it to the band.  I just suggested the modulation that kicks the tune into another gear for the solo sections.  Paul loved the idea and insisted on giving me full co-writer's credit.  Drummer Jeff Minnick contributed his patented fast two-beat groove on the song--along with a Gene Krupa-like drum-harp breakdown.  And we all got to sing what we termed "sailor vocals."

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Dorothy Morrison
Marvin Holmes

Story

Dorothy Morrison is legendary for her lead vocal on the Grammy-winning gospel classic, "Oh Happy Day."  This single is one of the first recordings I made.  I was in guitarist Marvin Holmes' band at the time (1975), and he wrote the song and produced the session, as I recall.  Trombonist Danny Armstrong wrote the horn & string arrangement.  Marvin & Danny are still active in the Bay Area music scene.

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Bernard "Pretty" Purdie & Purdie's Powerhouse
D. Harris/J. Otis

Story

Drummer Bernard "Pretty" Purdie is a legend--one of the world's most-recorded drummers.  But he considers this CD, recorded live at the original Jimmy Mak's, one of his best in decades.  Blues Revue called it "the best party album in years."  We certainly had fun recording it.  Food & cooking were the theme (my wife Tracy came up with the CD title), and this track, featuring Linda Hornbuckle & Rob Paparozzi (Blues Brothers, Blood Sweat & Tears) on vocals, celebrates soul food.

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The Paul deLay Band
deLay/Pain

Story

The Other One, recorded in November, 1990--just a few months after I joined the Paul deLay Band--was a major departure for the group.  Previously, their material had largely been blues covers.  But, likely freed up by the trauma and public embarrassment of a well-publicized drug bust, Paul started performing highly personal songs he'd been tinkering with in private for years.  He also wrote some new ones, including this tune I co-wrote with him.  The song won the Portland Music Association's songwriting contest for 1993 in the Rhythm & Blues category. 

Rhythm section members Jeff Minnick & John Bistline laid down the restrained groove.  The four-bar piano-guitar-sax riff played behind both the harp solos and the vocal was a collaboration between sax player Dan Fincher and myself.  We'd joined the band at the same time and brought our common background in soul music--where there are often set "parts"--to the arrangements.  This track is also notable for a rare change of pace: me playing piano and, yes...synth strings!

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King Louie & Baby James
Traditional

Story

This song was part of a set recorded at the '05 Safeway Waterfront Blues Festival.  It was only the band's third gig together, and we didn't expect to be recorded.  But the music went great and we released the CD.  On this slow blues, guest pianist Janice Scroggins plays a great solo.

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The Paul deLay Band
deLay/Pain

Story

During Paul's incarceration, his band--appropriately dubbed the No Delay Band--had backed "soul diva" Linda Hornbuckle.  Upon Paul's release, Linda formed her own band, but the two friends teamed up for this churchy duet on Paul's first post-prison CD.  Grammy-nominated pianist Janice Scroggins was also a special guest on the session, at my suggestion, and she just nailed this performance.  (Our collaboration had begun on the No Delay CD.)  I co-wrote this song with Paul.  Rhythm section members Mike Klobas & John Mozzacco suggested the tempo change after the modulation.  The tune is poignant in light of Paul's premature death just eleven years later.

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Emmett Wheatfall
Emmett Wheatfall

Story

The late Jim Miller, a fine bassist, had recommended me for a spoken word project produced by saxophonist Noah Peterson, accompanying a poet named Emmett Wheatfall.  When I arrived at the recording studio, the first track I was asked to play on had been recorded the day before; Emmett wanted me to overdub organ on it.  When I heard the track, I was concerned: it was an extremely powerful, gospel-soaked piece, and I had brought my 34-lb Nord organ--not a Hammond B-3.  But the track was finished in no time and Emmett was very pleased, later posting on Facebook, "The magic on this track is the MASTERFUL work of Louis Pain on the Hammond B-3 Organ."  I guess I fooled him!  But seriously: the magic on this track is Emmett Wheatfall; the rest of us (Nathan Olsen, Carlton Jackson, & Jim Miller) just hopped aboard his "gospel train."

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The Paul deLay Band
P. deLay

Story

This was the Paul deLay Band's 2nd release on the Evidence label, following the critically-acclaimed Ocean of Tears.  This track is one of my favorite tunes from the CD--Paul at his most upbeat. 

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King Louie & Baby James
Millinder/Simon

Story

Recorded live @ Portland's Jimmy Mak's, this CD captured Sweet Baby James' wonderful singing and entertaining in front of a packed, enthusiastic audience.  Here, on the band's break tune, James is characteristically un-politically correct--and hilarious.  Drummer Micah Kassell swings hard.  Saxman Renato Caranto gets off a nice solo, with plenty of encouragement from James! 

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Curtis Salgado
D. Bryant

Story

This is one of Curtis' favorite cover tunes; he really gets into it.  Like a lot of classic soul tunes, the O.V. Wright original had Hammond organ on it, so Curtis asked me to play B-3 on the track.

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King Louie & Baby James
Mills/Bigard/Ellington

Story

This live CD, and this track, captures the fun of playing with the one & only "Sweet Baby James" Benton.  The Oregonian's Marty Hughley wrote, "Travel around the world and you won't find many musical experiences that make you feel like this."  On this track, Renato Caranto plays a great tenor solo--with James rooting him on.

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Hot Street
C. Head, N. Ginsberg

Story

I played in Hot Street, led by former Tower of Power guitarist Bruce Conte, for a couple of years in the early '80s.  The band was loaded with talent, including a pair of outstanding vocalists, the late Terri Smith and former Righteous Brother Jimmy Walker (who also played drums).  Sadly, the band never recorded or played any large venues due to a number of non-musical factors.  But a four-song quickie demo, including this haunting track, hints at what might have been. 

Oh, and yes: that's me playing Prophet 5 strings, along with piano!  I played synths for about three years before coming to my senses and returning to my true love: Hammond B-3.

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The Mel Brown B-3 Organ Group
Billy Page

Story

This tune starts out as a cover of the Ramsey Lewis soul-jazz classic.  But, as is typical with the Mel Brown B-3 Organ Group, it morphs into something else--in this case, an extended percussion break with interjected snippets of other songs.  Regular percussionist Curtis Craft is joined by a couple of his percussionist buddies.  The Oregonian dubbed the band's approach as "the sound of spontaneity," and this performance is a good example. 

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Linda Hornbuckle with No Delay
C. Calhoun

Story

Linda had already been Portland's top soul diva for many years before she recorded her first CD: this "meeting" with the Paul deLay Band.  (Paul deLay was incarcerated at the time.)  This track is a New Orleans-style arrangement of an old Ruth Brown blues, featuring the deLay band's "horn section": B-3 & tenor sax.  Peter Dammann plays some stinging guitar here, and Dan Fincher takes a funky tenor solo.

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The Paul deLay Band
deLay/Mazzocco

Story

Most of the Paul deLay Band's Ocean of Tears CD was highly arranged, featuring intense material that Paul had composed while incarcerated and that the band had further developed on his release.  This tune was an exception: loose and spontaneous.  Guitarist Peter Dammann plays some funky rhythm as well as getting off a typically stinging guitar solo.  (We call him "the thinking man's guitar-slinger.")  And through the magic of overdubbing, bassist John Mozzacco plays a melodic bass solo while laying down the funk beneath.  Just a really fun track.

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Mel Brown Quintet
Louis Pain

Story

The Mel Brown B-3 Organ Group (then called the Mel Brown Quintet) was just a couple years into its long run at Portland's Jimmy Mak's when this live CD was recorded in '99.  I'd just written this song--named for my wife & manager, Tracy Pain--and taught it to the band.  It features some nice blowing by Dan Faehnle on guitar.  Listen carefully during Dan's solo, and you can hear trumpeter Thara Memory yelling a horn part idea in my ear.  I got so distracted, I missed the bridge!  :-)

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Bernard "Pretty" Purdie & Purdie's Powerhouse
Louis Pain

Story

After we'd decided to make food/cooking the theme for this live recording, Bernard suggested we write a few instrumentals for the project.  As I visualized what "Pretty" Purdie looks like while playing his drums, this tune came to me.  (The CD track is long, so in this clip I've just included the outro.)  I've played with many wonderful drummers, but Bernard is the only one who makes you feel like you've hopped aboard a train.  You can't help but get excited!

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King Louie & Baby James
Freeman/Nichols/Chapin/Holiner/Cahn

Story

"Sweet Baby James" Benton is best known these days as a blues singer.  But like Ray Charles--a contemporary who he's has been compared to, James was once a crooner--a singer of jazz & standard tunes.  James' musical mentor, Kansas City pianist Frank Martin, had James learn over a hundred standards from memory!  Here, singing a beautiful ballad of romantic yearning, James is at his most soulful.  Saxophonist Renato Caranto plays a gorgeous solo.

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The Paul deLay Band
deLay/Pain

Story

This tune, like most of the "Ocean of Tears" CD, was composed by Paul deLay while he was incarcerated.  Upon his release, the band fine-tuned the song and recorded it for Evidence Records.

Lyrics

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Hot Street
Jimmy Walker

Story

Here's another track from the Hot Street demo, circa '82.  It's not a very original song or performance, but I get a kick out of it anyway.  I particularly like the track because the group's drummer/vocalist Jimmy Walker (formerly with the Knickerbockers & the Righteous Brothers) got off one of his great screams during the ride out!  Making up the rest of the group: Bruce Conte, guitarist & bandleader; Gary Calvin, bass; me on B-3 & piano; and Terri Conte, vocals.  Terri, who sadly passed away early this year, was also a great singer.  She could give Lydia Pense a run for her money!

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