By Tom Harmon of Positively Entertaining Magazine
The buzz, the electricity, even before the band started, was fantastic. The band members were really enjoying the idea of performing at the Blue Diamond in Portland OR. They greeted customers and friends as they came in the door, which created a real welcoming atmosphere.
As things came about and it was time for the first set to begin the Sonny Hess Band started to cook with the very first song (an original by Sonny). The house roared with approval.
Then, by the third song, the new vocalist Vicki Stevens came up on stage. Just as she was introduced a smile came across her face and a rumba broke out (a rumba, not a rumble). Vicki’s dominance and great voice captivated the audience to its next level of interest.
Between Vicki and Sonny, Jim on bass, and Kelly on drums the crowd continued to respond after every song with outstanding approval. As the evening progressed the band was met with applause from the very first song. They started out hot and just got hotter. The Sonny Hess Band will hold your interest all night.
Sonny Hess is a great and seasoned player no doubt. Having played the Portland and regional circuit from the 80’s and 90’s Sonny played lead guitar for the Paulette N’ Power Band from 1991 to 1996. The Power Band took Portland by storm in the early 90’s winning the Best R&B Act Award by the People’s Choice Crystal Awards.
They had a tight sound with a recording contract in the works when Paulette met her untimely death. Since then, Sonny has continued looking for that “special connection” while performing in clubs and festivals with the Sonny Hess Band. When Vicki sat in with the legendary band, something happened that couldn’t be denied, it was like, MAGIC and that magic was felt by everyone.
Vicki Stevens holds a Rainy Day Blues Society Rooster Award for Best Female Blues Vocalist. She was also a semi-finalist in Memphis’ International Blues Challenge and continues to slam the Northwest audiences in the face with her bluesy vocal style and show-stopping performances. She connects with her crowds as though she knows them personally. Vicki has a dynamic presence on stage. When she sings and moves the audience is focused on her. She molds herself to each song as she performs them. She’s an artist with great expression.
Sonny Hess is the first woman guitar player to hold a nomination for Best Lead Guitar Muddy Award by the Cascade Blues Association as well as a nomination for a lifetime Achievement Award. She has implemented many music programs in the area, fundraisers and benefits, and is known for her productions of the NW Women R&B shows. Hess started playing guitar when she was eight years old. Her influences have been Grand Funk, John and Edgar Winter, Clapton, B.B. King, Bonnie Raitt.
Bass player Jim Hively had some of the most slick bass lines and runs. Using his five string custom bass he ran off eighth notes that created a full sound while playing off lead guitarist Hess. The fullness of his playing made the band sound complete something not always achieved by a three piece band. Hively has played ever since he was a kid at school and at church. He was influenced early by bands like Earth, Wind and Fire, Cold Blood, and others. He’s played with Sonny Hess for the last nine years and is excited about the possibilities that the band has.
Drummer Kelly Pierce has professional delivery in every song he plays whether it’s funk, blues, or rock. Tonight both he and Jim were in the pocket on every song. The energy he pours into the Sonny Hess Band behind the drums shines. He’s played with Sonny for eighteen years providing the driving force behind her guitar playing. Playing since he was sixteen his early influences were Tony Williams, John Bonham, and Sonny Payne (Big Band and Swing). He recently was in the studio with Hess and Hively finishing their most recent CD.
The mix for the band was perfect. Each player maintained a volume that didn’t overpower anybody and the vocals were clearly heard from all four mics. And their harmonies were strong and right on.
So what’s in the future for the Sonny Hess Band? Sonny has planned on being a regional touring act. They have national ability and are looking for a good deal. Just recently they released a new CD All Aces and another CD is planned to come out in 2013.
The Blue Diamond bar is located at 2016 NE Sandy Blvd Portland. The Blue Diamond is a long time club that features Rock, Blues, and Funk entertainment. Steve the owner offers a complete menu with breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Dinner and lunch specials are offered daily (a favorite dish is the Halibut Bites). The food is great and is served by an excellent staff. There is a full bar with large screen TV’s and slot machines. It’s a great atmosphere. Open from 10am til 12am with entertainment six nights a week. If you’ve never been here you should come in for a visit.