Around the World: Live at Jimmy Mak's
[CD review] Mirthful Musicians By Tom D'Antoni Special to The Oregonian The live recording of "King Louie & Baby James" (organist Louis Pain and singer Sweet Baby James Benton) is a rollicking good time. Benton is one of the last links-and surely the most visible-to Portland's jazz heritage. He was also the "proprietor" of a garage-turned-jazz-salon in his backyard, where the top players in town and those coming through town would meet. "The music went all day, every day," he said with a chuckle, "and you could always eat." That is precisely the spirit captured on this recording. Pain-part of Mel Brown's B-3 Organ Group, and for years Paul deLay's keyboardist/arranger-has one foot in jazz and one in the blues, exactly the tradition from which Benton springs. Add guitarist Eddie Martinez and tenor saxophonist Renato Caranto, plus drummer Micah Kassell, and you've got a delightful mix of virtuosity and deep soul. In his 78th year, Benton is the star. He might not have the vocal chops he had 30 years ago, but the delight he takes at still being in front of an audience is obvious, as is the freedom to say pretty much what he wants. The tunes are warhorses, old shoes the band wears comfortably. On the instrumentals, Caranto, Pain and Martinez have never sounded better. It's hard to leave this album without a smile on your face. - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [CD liner notes] Jimmy Mak's ain't no chicken shack, but it's always cookin'. Actually, it's a nicely appointed place in Portland's vibrant Pearl District, and the food's mostly Greek. Call it a calamari palace if you prefer -- though that just doesn't have the same shang-a-lang. Because what makes the club a special place is a funky, down-home feeling that makes your muscles a little looser, your cares a little lighter, your eyes a little brighter. You want a heavy-duty dose of that feeling? Drop by when King Louis & Baby James are in the house. The joint's full of your friends, whether you've met them yet or not, and the stew of jazz, blues and soul bubbles appetizingly from the very first notes. Who's doin' the cookin'? The man with the recipe, Louis Pain on the Hammond B-3, locking in on the groove with drummer Micah Kassell. For that flavor to savor, it's Renato Caranto on tenor serving up the depth of the human condition in every solo. Bringing the heat on guitar, that's Eddie Martinez, who, if he weren't so humble, would need an 18-wheeler to carry around his résumé (Mick Jagger, Robert Palmer, and so on). And serving it up with style is the keeper of the flame himself, venerable veteran vocalist Sweet Baby James. Travel around the world and you won't find many musical experiences that can make you feel like this. --Marty Hughley, The Oregonian - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [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; Micah Kassell, one of the most versatile and sought-after young drummers in Portland; and guitarist Eddie Martinez, who has recorded with such music stars as Tina Turner, Mick Jagger, and Robert Palmer. 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 festival. The new CD--recorded live at Portland's top jazz & blues club, Jimmy Mak's--is also receiving raves (e.g., The Oregonian called it, 'a rollicking good time...a delightful mix of virtuosity and deep soul'). And for good reason: like the band's first CD, this recording is the real deal, capturing the spontaneity, excitement, and soulfulness of a great blues/jazz band with virtually 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.' - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -.