At first glance, the blues peruser might not recognize the name of the group. The resumes however of the Original Legends of the Blues, firmly pass the Blues background check.
Sideman to the stars, drummer Jimmi Mayes, Mississippi bred, Chicago raised, caught a regular gig at Big Duke’s Blue Flame Lounge in the Windy City before his 18th birthday. After auditioning and playing for Little Walter, he played with Muddy Waters, Otis Rush and others knee deep in the Chicago Blues scene. He later played with the Flamingos, Joey Dee & The Starliters, Marvin Gaye, James Brown, Jimi Hendrix and many others. Mayes sings and/or plays drums on five tracks.
Trumpeter James “Boogaloo” Bolden should be familiar to anyone who saw B.B. King live anytime during the last 35 years of B.B’s life on planet earth. The barrel chested Bolden, (could he be related to Buddy?) spent those last 35 with King and was his bandleader. Bolden also tenured with the Duke Ellington Orchestra. In college at Texas Southern University, he was in the world renowned Ocean of Soul marching band and the TSU Jazz Ensemble.
Charlie “Tuna” Dennis, also a B.B. King alum (15 years) is a guitarist and vocalist who also toured with Buddy Guy and Bonnie Raitt.
Tenor saxophonist Eric Denner was in Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown’s band for 12 years.
Barry Seelen is a very much in demand Houston based keyboardist who toured with the late Mighty Sam McClain.
Master percussionist Herman Jackson has recorded and played with a long list of major artists including the Count Basie Big Band, Cannonball Adderly, Al Green, Joe Tex, Johnny Adams, Joe Sample, Willie Nelson, Professor Longhair, Irma Thomas, Dave Holland, The Moonglows, Eddie “Lockjaw” Davis, Steve Cropper, Angela Bofill and so many others.
Rounding out the Original Legends of the Blues is former Dickie Betts right hand man Mark May on guitar. Contributing also on guitars were producer/engineer Rock Romano (vocals too) and Jay Gordon. Russell Jackson contributed bass lines and vocals as well.
7 of the 12 tracks on this disk were written or co-written by members of the group. The remaining were written by B.B. King, Jimi Hendrix, Lonnie Youngblood, Roy Hawkins and Muddy Waters.
With such a talented and varied cast (ten musicians, 4 vocalists), this band is able to give the listener multiple looks and deliveries. Just because Boogaloo Bolden and Tuna Dennis worked for B.B. King over 50 years combined, the B.B. influence is not always evident. Bolden’s lead vocals are more Joe Williams than B.B. While Mr. Dennis sticks mainly to his rhythm guitar role, his solo on track. 5 “Why I Sing The Blues” is unlike Mr. King’s and his vocal on track 10, “Edumacation”, emanates from his own heart.
Fancy, layered guitar solos by Mark May and Jay Gordon are peppered throughout the production. When the horns chose to blow, they shine. Standout tracks include the New Orleans second line influenced track 4, “Royal And St. Pete” and the Jimi Hendrix at his songwriting peak-penned track 6, “My Friend”. Drummer Jimmi Mayes, who worked with and was a friend of Hendrix gives it a valiant try. His reading, while not as soulful as the original still lends hallucinogenic credence to the potency of the lyric.
Yeah, this one’s headed straight home to you…