Rafael Tranquilino - photo by Bill BungardThe Rafael Tranquilino Band is a truly a band to experience live. A powerhouse of guitar, bass, drums, and vocals fusing rock, blues, and funk into an alternative invocation of crossroads past, present, and future. Seattle-based, Tranquilino is known for his searing riffs and old-fashioned Delta slide and without doubt is one of the hottest guitarists in the Northwest. Their performances are epic and the band’s sound has been described as “music without borders.”

Rafael Tranquilino brings his fiery performance back to Portland for a night at Duff’s Garage, 2530 NE 82nd, on Friday, March 25 for a 9:00 pm show. This is a Cascade Blues Association co-sponsored event; show your membership card at the door and receive $1.00 off of admission.

Warren Haynes - press photoGrammy Award winning artist Warren Haynes has been recognized as a cornerstone of the American music landscape and revered as one of the finest and most fiery guitar players in the world. Throughout his prolific career as part of three of the greatest live groups in rock history – Allman Brothers Band, Gov’t Mule, and the Dead – his virtuosic artistry has led to thousands of unforgettable performances and millions of album and track sales. Despite all of the ground that Haynes has covered on his musical journey through blues and Southern rock, the impressive thing is that he still has many miles to explore. On his newest solo album Ashes and Dust, he puts forth one of his most gorgeous, musically rich and personal albums to date that encompasses beautiful acoustic arrangements, a rootsy/Americana soundscape and honeyed vocals that cut straight through to the soul.

Warren Haynes will bring his solo tour for Ashes and Dust to Portland at The Aladdin Theater on Tuesday, March 29 for a 7:30 pm show. This event is open to minors under 21 when accompanied by a parent of legal guardian. Tickets are $30.00 advance/day of show and may be purchased through TicketFly.com.

New Orleans based Anders Osborne is known for his richly detailed songwriting, his intensely emotional, soulful vocals, and his piercing, expert guitar work. Hailed by Guitar Player magazine as “the poet laureate of Louisiana’s fertile roots music scene,” Osborne has been continuously touring while drawing raves from fans all around the country. With a handful of recordings under his belt and the newest a collaboration with The Mississippi All Stars, he will be making a stop at Portland’s Dante’s for a double-headed show that also features the funky rising band and one of the highlights of the 2015 Waterfront Blues Festival Sister Sparrow & The Dirty Birds on Saturday, April 2.

Dante’s is located at 350 W Burnside. Show time is 9:00 pm. Advance tickets are $21.50 and can be purchased at TicketWeb.com. A limited number of special VIP tickets can be obtained through Anders Osborne’s website linking ticket sales, use the promo code ANDERS. These special VIP tickets include one (1) Ticket to the show, access for one (1) to soundcheck, access for one (1) to pre-show Meet & Greet with the band, one (1) autographed screen printed poster and one (1) commemorative laminate.

The 5th Annual Coyote Kings Invitational Walla Walla Guitar Festival, in conjunction with Feast Walla Walla, is a multi-venue Blues & Roots music, food, and wine celebration weekend in Beautiful Downtown Walla Walla! This year the dates for the event will be April 8 – 10 taking place in various locations in the city, including include The Powerhouse Theater, Sapolil Cellars, The Marcus Whitman, The Elks, The VFW, The Eagles, and the Large Tent.

The line-up for the 2016 Walla Walla Guitar Festival is quite impressive. Alongside The Coyote Kings, artists featured will be Sugaray Rayford, Rick Estrin & The Nightcats, The 44s, Ben Hunter & Joe Seamons, Ayron Jones & The Way,Big Monti & Rae Gordon, Charlie Butts & The Filter Tips, Randy Oxford’s All-Star Slam, The Stacy Jones Band, The Trevalyn Triangle, The Sara Brown Band, The Wasteland Kings, Billy Stoops, Vaugn Jensen, Tuck Foster, Shanks Pony, Pappa Frita & The Hot Mustard, Gary Winston & The Real Deal, The Barn Dwellers, Iguana Hat, Winston/Hemenway, and more!

Tickets for the event may be purchased through TicketBud.com with a variety of price ranges depending on how many events/days you wish to attend. A full festival package is $100.00 for all events. Lodging is also available and details can be found on the TicketBud.com site.

To the CBA

All the members of SISTER MERCY would like to thank the CBA for the incredible opportunity to represent Portland at the International Blues Challenge. From the first moments trying out at The Lehrer last spring to The Waterfront Blues Festival all six of us have been on a road never imagined.  Memphis was everything we expected it to be.  We had the opportunity to play in the PNW Showcase then two nights at The Tin Roof for the quarterfinals.  Sister Mercy made the semifinals and was able to play again Friday night at The Blues City Café.  Although we did not make it to the finals, we felt supported, loved, encouraged — and we made more friends.

So Memphis gave us new friends, great music, ribs, chicken, and youth that will keep the blues alive for many years.  Special thanks to Greg Johnson and Cherie Robbins who kept us going and to all our friends and family who came to spend the week with us.  It was magic.

April Brown, Kelsey Brown, Debby Espinor, Roger Espinor, Ron Camacho, and Steven Savoie

How Blue Can you Get?

I am a mid-century modern blues lover and loyal attendee at the Portland Waterfront Blues Festival. On festival days you’ll find me in the front row wearing my donkey farmer hat. Following the sage advice of festival rats, I cashed in my miles for the Blues Foundation’s International Blues Challenge in Memphis. This is a serious competition for blues artists. Local blues chapters send a band, solo and youth contestants to compete for valuable gig laden prizes. Our Cascade Blues Association in Portland sent Sister Mercy, the Solo/Duo  act Rogue Rage Duo  and Justus Reece for the Youth Showcase.

By the numbers: five nights, 840 musicians, 121 bands from thirteen countries, nine prizes, gigs for the top three bands, thirty-two years running. Pace yourself, the MC advised.

Memphis is my ancestral home; my family has lived there for over 100 years. But most of my life has been in the Northwest. This adventure was chance to see the family and hear live performances by the blues stars of the future.

The Keys to the Highway

Getting to Memphis from Portland isn’t easy. With delays, we didn’t get in until 2:00AM. Did I mention there were celebrities on the plane? Portland’s own entry, Sister Mercy! Driving in Memphis is easy, from the terminal gate to my mom’s: 30 minutes. She didn’t wait up.

Beale Street, Memphis is blues ground zero. The blues forefathers, like young Riley Blues Boy King made the trip from the Mississippi cotton fields to play in the clubs, busk on the street and drink in the bars.

Beale Street was ravaged in the garbage strike, but today it has a vibrant scene with more than twenty bars and music clubs. On any night, you’ll hear the artists pounding it out for covers and tips from music lovers, tourists, conventioneers, and frat boys from around the globe.

The competition is held in the clubs where the artists perform for judges Wednesday through Friday. Saturday, the sixteen finalists compete for the grand prizes in the Orpheum Theater. Enough back-story, let’s get to the music.

It’s not possible to see every performance, take it from me I tried! In a completely biased, un-statistically significant study I’m here to report my favorite bands. Full disclosure, I am a guitar player so brace yourself for a few geeky gear references.

Every Day I have the Blues

Tuesday, International Showcase. 

On Beale Street, the musicians outnumber the audience members.  Twenty four bands perform tonight in six clubs. Showcase events are free.

Sometimes the first band kills it. And that’s what happened here.

Band:  T-Roosters,  Representing: Deltablues  Association, Genoa Italy

Venue: Wet Willies

Guitar: Epiphone Casino (with foam in the f-holes)

When the Tiziano “Rooster” the frontman cranked up the Epiphone, you could almost smell the fried catfish .  How could artists from so far away capture the delta sound so perfectly? Sadly many people in Memphis don’t know or care much about blues. The set included an original song with a clear Italian influence. The band delivered an excellent updated John Lee Hooker classic.

Wednesday: Quarter Finals

121 bands in twelve clubs. Each band gets twenty minutes, which goes by super fast

Favorite bands:

1) Band: Sister Mercy   Representing: Cascade Blues Association, Portland OR

Venue: Tin Roof

Guitar: Gibson Les Paul Tobacco Sunburst

The Sisters April (lead) and Kelsey opened with their ‘Sister Mercy’ name song. By a mile, the band had the best vocals I’d seen so far with the three ladies singing in harmony. And they were the only act so far to feature any dance moves. The crowd loved them…and when April sang the “get out” song, she really sold it.

2) Band: White Knuckle Trio  Representing :Helsinki Blues Society, Helsinki Finland.

Guitars- Stratocaster, one of the few I’d seen so far

Venue: Hard Rock Café.

This amazing power trio featured the best table dancing guitar player of the night. This band had personality. The drummer sang in perfect English, with attitude while keyboard held the bass line.

Thursday- Quarter Finals

The bands get one more chance, same club, different schedule, different judges.

Favorite Band: Lampano Alley, Representing: Blues Asia Network, Philippines.

Venue: Flynn’s

Guitar: Telecaster Thinline with humbuckers.

We expected great vocals. The twenty-four year-old harp player stole the show. It was the best harp playing I’d heard so far. I had a chance to meet the guys, they handed me their CD and would not take any money. I owe them drinks.

These are my favorites. I saw ten bands each night and was home by midnight. How could it get any better?

How Many More Times?

Friday AM- after three nights on Beale Street I looked like something the cat dragged in. A walk in the warm Memphis sun brought me back to life.

Friday night, managed to catch most of traditional southern Jewish Shabbat dinner at my mom’s house with challah, chicken soup, kosher BBQ and sweet wine. I missed dessert. Made it to Beale Street to see the end of Sister Mercy. The club was packed and the set was awesome. If you are keeping score, all of my favorites made to to the semi-finals. Spoiler alert, this would be the Sisters’ last night.

Favorite Band: Michael Lee Band, Representing: San Angelo Blues Society, San Angelo, Texas

Guitar: Stratocaster

Michael is a young guitar slinger who harkens back to the early days of Jonny Lang. (Jonny turned thirty five today). Playing in the style of the masters, and while bouncing on stage in sneakers. “Don’t Leave me” was an incredibly dramatic tune. Michael sang without a mike, and threw the poor Strat on the ground to drive it home. It made me wonder, how could anyone leave after that?

Ain’t Nobody’s Business…

Saturday morning, I’m living the blues.  10:00 AM, I’m in synagogue with my mom and brother.  2:00 PM, I’m at the show enjoying a local micro-brew. In infinite festival rat wisdom, I’d paid the extra twenski for a reserved seat, twelfth row center. The staff told me that there were hundreds of the people lined up for the opening.

Favorite Band: Paul DesLauriers Band  Representing: Montreal Blues Society, Montreal, Canada.

Guitars:  Gibson White Double neck ES1275, Les Paul Special TV Yellow Double Cutaway

They had me when the band wheeled out a guitar stand with three guitars. This was my favorite band of the day (Spoiler alert, they didn’t win). The Love in Vain cover was neither Robert Johnson nor Mick Jagger but a fantastic updated piece with a driving slide solo. They were the only band I heard play rockabilly. I had a chance to meet Paul in the lobby. Fist bump when I said “ES1275.”

Paul goes on to take second place for best band. Mazel Tov Paul!

By now, it’s after 6:00 PM and the silent auction is over.  I collect my winnings: an eight disc Duke Robillard, Ronnie Earl set. Hey it’s for a good cause right?

A little bashful, I accept Sister Mercy’s invitation (thanks Debby) to the after party at their rented loft. Meeting the musicians makes the experience exponentially more rewarding. This was a family party with the Brown sisters, dad, and spouses for BBQ and drinks. I got an inside peek into the Portland Pro music scene. Debby Espinor broke it down for me. The band has been together for less than one year. The instrumentalists discovered April singing in church. April told me she loved gospel. Playing five shows on Beale Street was a huge honor for the group and gave them blues cred back on the west coast.  Now I’ve been to Beale before and I can almost guarantee that some of the regular players would find it just as exciting taking a plane trip to the west coast. Some are pretty poor. The band has great contacts and leads for the future, and a great story for their bio. They will go back to Portland, their day jobs, and try to turn this into more bookings.

I Can’t Quit You

The wrap up. So why  do I do this?

This was more live music than I could see in a year. But why does that matter? I could listen to recordings or streamings all day long and hear just as much music. Some of it probably better, and almost all of it mixed very well. Listening to the recordings is not the same as going to the shows. Why are the shows so much better? It is the connection to the artists. Seeing the bands play live is completely real. You see and hear the artist pouring their hearts out, telling their stories to you: live.  You see the sweat and tears, you feel the love, pain, sorrow and well…blues. They are performing works that they’ve practiced for hours, often years to hone to perfection. No re-takes or do overs.  Meeting the bands and the wonderful talented musicians adds an incredible depth. People say they are “keeping the blues alive” . For me this is keeping music alive. If you have a chance to support live music, please do it for all of us. Catch the shows, the festivals, hire the bands, and support the organizations. The artform is threatened and we all have to keep it alive.

To all the festival lovers- I highly recommend this event. The talent is phenomenal, the tickets are quite reasonably priced, the showcases are free. The Blues Foundation in Memphis does a wonderful job…and, it’s Beale Street!

To the Portlanders- I’ll see you at the Waterfront Blues Festival. I’ll be the guy in the front row wearing the donkey farmer hat.

Jazzy Jeff Levine
‘Burbs of Portland
Oregon, USA

Melody Ballroom, 615 SE Alder St., Portland
Wednesday, March 2, 7:00 pm
Members always Free – Non-members $3.00
Opening Acoustic Set – Tim Connor
Second Electric Set – Eric “Sugar” Larsen Group

Looking at the number of events happening in March it appears that this will be a very busy month on trying to keep up with all that is going on. But as always, the best way to start the month is by coming to the Cascade Blues Association’s membership meeting. It’s a great way to hear fantastic performances by local musicians and we’ll let you know on what’s happening out there in our area when it comes to blues music you should not miss out on.

Tim ConnorOpening the month we will see the return of acoustic guitarist and songwriter Tim Connor. His incisive, emotionally telling, often witty observations on life and relationships have evoked comparisons to Lyle Lovett, Randy Newman, John Prine, and Elvis Costello, while his fingerpicked guitar playing is rooted in blues, ragtime, and country styles, blends in African influences absorbed during childhood years in Zambia, along with county, rock, soul, jazz, and Latin and Caribbean music.

“Songwriting is about telling stories,” Tim says, “and I’ve always thought of myself as a songwriter. I’m not a traditional musician really, but American songwriting is a tradition in its own right that has a symbiotic relationship with traditional folk music, going all the way back to Stephen Foster. I just want to be part of that tradition and add a few threads to the tapestry.”

Tim has released one CD titled Blues Between The Lines, with a second, Blues Period, in the works. He has performed throughout the region at farmers markets, taverns and coffee houses and folk festivals including the Northwest Folklife Festival. Tim enjoys playing his music pretty much anywhere he can find an audience.

The second set of the night will feature the Eric Sugar Larsen Group, a contemporary soul/blues band that invariably leaves every audience wanting more. Contemporary in their application yet extremely pop sensible, they weave masterfully their original music with that of the classic Chicago groove sound. For the past several years, the Eric Sugar Larsen Group has been considered one of the freshest sounds on the thriving Portland music scene.

eric sugar larsenBand leader Eric Larsen has been a part of the Portland music community since forming The Groove Authority back in 1984. With influences early on from Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, and Freddie King, he is also the son of saxophonist Don Larsen of the legendary jazz maseter Stan Kenton’s band. Over his career Eric has traveled and performed in twenty-two countries.

Larsen is joined by the steady rhythm section of David Franklin Stump on bass and John Garcia on drums. This is a trio to be reckoned with and certain to bring a crowd to their feet heading for the dance floor.

And don’t forget to pick up your free drawing ticket when you enter the Melody for your chance to win great CDs or other great prizes. Can it get any better? Good music and good friends — the perfect way to start out every month.

The fifth annual Inner City Blues Festival will be held on Saturday, April 16 at The Eagles North Portland FOE 3426. Once again this event will help benefit Health Care for All Oregon in its continuing advocacy for publicly funded, universal healthcare for all people in Oregon. Last year’s event  raised over $24,000 and the goal this year is to surpass $40,000.

This year’s festival has a stellar line-up, featuring Steve Cheseborough; Augustana Jazz Quartet with Marilyn Keller; Roseland Hunters with LaRhonda Steele; Terry Robb; Tevis Hodge Jr; Blaco Allegria; NW Women in Blues with Sonny Hess, Bonnie Lee, Rae Gordon, Lady Kat and Vicki Stevens; and the Norman Sylvester Band with Shoehorn, Mad as Hell Doctors, Leanne Sylvester Miller, and Sara “Sweet Thangz.”

This is a 21 & over event. Food and a full service bar will be available. The Eagles is located at 7611 N Exeter and show time starts at 6:00 pm. Tickets are $20.00 advance available at Music Millennium, Musician’s Union, Geneva’s, Peninsula Station and TicketTomato.com. This is a Cascade Blues Association co-sponsored event. Members will receive a $1.00 discount and tickets will be sold at the March and April CBA General Membership Meetings.

The Journey To Memphis is the Cascade Blues Association’s regional competition to select the acts that will represent our organization and region in the next year’s International Blues Challenge in Memphis, TN, held in early 2017. Up to 250 acts from around the world converge on Beale Street to perform before the music industry searching for new talent, with the chance to win recognition and prizes that include major festival performances and more. But the only way an act may participate is to win a regional competition held by one of The Blues Foundation’s affiliated societies like the Cascade Blues Association.

The Journey To Memphis competition consists of two rounds. The opening round will be held the first weekend in June at Portland’s newest premier venue, The Rose Room, 8102 NE Killingsworth.  The event may take place over more than one night depending on the number of acts wishing to compete. A trio of judges selected for their backgrounds and knowledge of the blues will evaluate each act, and the highest scoring acts from each night of competition (up to four acts)will advance to the finals held at the Waterfront Blues Festival on July 4th.

Applications to participate in the competition will be accepted from now until Wednesday, April 6 at the Cascade Blues Association membership meeting. No late applications will be accepted. All eligible acts that meet our criteria as described below will be able to compete. The performance schedule for the competition is drawn at random.

Here’s what you need to do to enter:

  • Entry fee is $25.00
  • Each act must have at least one person in the band who is a member of the Cascade Blues Association.
  • Only acts located within the region of Oregon, Washington or Idaho are allowed to enter the Journey To Memphis.
  • Any act that has been nominated for or received a Blues Music Awards from The Blues Foundation are ineligible to compete.
  • Any act that has competed in the International Blues Challenge two consecutive years, regardless whether with the same society or as a solo/duo or band act, must sit out a year before being allowed to compete again.
  • Along with your $25.00 application fee, send an up-to-date band bio including names of all members, a 300 dpi photo of the band, full song samples of the band’s music (this may be used on a radio broadcast to promote the event), and we need to be made aware of any band member who may be under 21 years of age at the time of the competition so the venue is aware ahead of time for Oregon or Washington Liquor Commission laws.
  • We require that any act that moves forward in the competition must use the same band members that they won the rounds with. In other words, if you won with a certain bass player or drummer at the Waterfront Blues Festival, that bassist and drummer must be in your band to compete in Memphis. Exceptions will made in rare circumstances when not under control of the act, such as health issues.
  • We do not prevent acts competing with the Cascade Blues Association from doing so with other societies. All that we ask is that if you win another group’s competition before ours is held, or if you win ours before theirs, please remove yourself from further competitions to allow other acts the chance to win the right to go to Memphis.

Here’s a list of new music received at the CBA office or purchased personally this last month that should be noted:

Benny Turner – When She’s Gone (NOLA Blue)
Dennis Jones – Both Sides Of The Track (Leroy’s Boy Music)
Jason Vivone & The Billy Bats – The Avenue (Self Produced)
Joyann Parker & Sweet Tea – On The Rocks (Self Produced)
Riff Riders – Hit The Road (Graphite Sound)
Steve Howell & The Mighty Men – Friend Like Me (Out Of The Past Music)
The Dave Muskett Acoustic Blues Band – Recorded Live At The Slippery Noodle Inn (Shoe String Records)
Tommy Z – Blizzard Of Blues (Self Produced)
Toronzo Cannon – The Chicago Way (Alligator Records)
Various Artists – God Don’t Never Change: The Songs Of Blind Willie Johnson (Alligator Records)
Walkin’ Cane Mark – Tryin’ To Make You Understand (Enable Records)