Jimmy Mak's - Thursday, July 13, 2006
The Mel Brown B-3 Organ Band
Mel Brown, Drums
Louis Pain, B-3 Organ
Dan Balmer, Guitar
Renato Caranto, Saxophone
Curtis Craft, Percussion
This evening marked the 10th anniversary celebration of Jimmy Mak's jazz club. Jimmy himself was on hand to announce the band and was obviously moved by the large, enthusiastic audience that has been coming to frequent the new version of his club. Jimmy's expressive emotion made obvious his realized goal of providing top quality jazz in a beautiful setting to Portland area club-goers. Providing great entertainment and wonderful dining fare, Jimmy Mak's truly shines bright in the crown of Portland jazz clubs. Located just off Burnside on NW 10th Avenue, the club is accessible, with on street parking available in the surrounding blocks near the heart of the Pearl District. Even with the place packed, I was able to find parking just a few blocks away (on 8th). And, it's non-smoking.
This group has been tearing it up for a number of years at Jimmy Mak's, going back to the early days. One of three Mel Brown configurations available weekly at Jimmy Mak's, the B-3 Organ Band sends out a warm groove of soul and jazz every Thursday night. Louis Pain's command of the keyboard is positively inspirational and the band's pleasure in playing together is completely evident. As is Mel's trademark, the band goes from one tune right into another, with barely room for applause, often kicking off the next tune with an organ rift or a drum pick-up, a nod of the head, and they're flying.
This is truly an all-star band from top to bottom, featuring no less than two Jazz Society Hall-of-Famers (Mel Brown and Dan Balmer). Balmer's guitar licks are legendary as he glides from one form of jazz to another with no perceptible effort, taking the listener on a newly created journey with each solo. Renato Caranto is a master on the tenor, breezing beautiful ballads with the same ease as he does with a red-hot solo on tunes like the soul landmark Shotgun. Curtis Craft, a wizard on percussion of all kinds, and who is leaving soon for Las Vegas (and will be sorely missed), brings a wonderful 70's feel to many of the tunes, filling all the cracks and adding a dimension that brings magic to the stage. Much has been said about Mel Brown's talent, style and enthusiasm for the music--it is unparalled in its uniqueness and unprecedented in its joy. I would have to say that Mel knows more pick-ups and has more stylish touches than any drummer I've heard since Benny Benjamin of the famed Funk Brothers (father of the Motown beat). Mel is a pure pleasure to watch as his ever-present smile draws you in, while his hands and feet keep you riveted. We are so lucky to have Mel Brown as part of the Portland jazz scene. As they played on this evening, there seemed to be a special quality to every tune . . . the vibe was intense.
If you haven't visited the new Jimmy Mak's, it's open for jazz every night of the week (except Sunday) at 8:00 pm. Come early for dinner and enjoy superb Greek and Middle Eastern cuisine . . . the service is superb and the music is marvelous. You will have a great time . . .