By Bruce J Maier – damngoodtunes founder
On February 21st I attended a concert in the city of Longview Washington which lies just west of Interstate 5, about forty miles from Portland Oregon. The show was presented by the historic Columbia Theatre and co-produced by drummer Willis Moss and Gian Paul Morrelli, the Theatre Director. There was an incredible lineup of talent including three of the top Portland Oregon area Blues and R and B artists, the first being Mr. Lloyd Jones. Jones has become synonymous with the Blues who’s – who of the entire region for many years, and is always writing new material and releasing CDs when he’s not traveling the seas for a Blues Cruise or touring Europe. Lloyd Jones is an outstanding guitarist and singer but it’s his personality on stage that I’ve always liked the most. Over the past few years I’ve been to about a half-dozen of his performances and have enjoyed each and every one. Once I was in a very small club and yet when Jones grabbed his guitar and stepped up to the mic, it was as though he was playing a stadium with fifteen thousand fans. Makes no difference, Lloyd Jones gives his one hundred ten per cent at any venue. If you get a chance to see him at a festival on a sunny day he makes everybody dance, even the little children and their grandmas. He’s a real “peoples “entertainer! Always two thumbs up way high for Lloyd Jones!
On Bass and also starring the incredible Lisa Mann, who proved to be everything that the press has been saying about her all over the net. She is a talented musician and a rhythmic Bass player who danced around the stage in a classy evening dress with leopard-pattered high heel shoes while delivering soulful, bluesy vocals on top of her Bass lines, something that not all Bassists are able to do. Though my first time seeing her in person it will not be my last – this young woman has something to show and offer to the world in the line of sublime talent and a charismatic though gentle command of the stage. The way she interacts with the others shows experience and craftsmanship without a hint of over-indulging ego. In my estimation would be a great candidate on my personal bucket list to perform with or even work in the studio for the respectful attitude with which she displays to the other musicians. I doubt there is a style of music she could not play or a suggestion she would make that would not completely enhance anyone’s musical project. Of course, with several CD’s and numerous awards to her credit, the rest of the world already knows this Lady is on a great course with her music career without me to tell them. I could see her music making a rare cross-over into mainstream Blues-edged Pop as easily as the success came to the now legendary Bonnie Raitt.
The third superpower of the evening was the very electric and powerful soul-singing, rocking and jumping Karen Lovely! Again I was at a bit of disadvantage and felt badly that I had personally never heard Karen before and, living so close to Portland Oregon I fail to see how I missed her. That said, by the time Lovely came onto the stage to join the crew, there were large shoes to fill and man…she filled them up, grabbed the audience right out of their seats and took control of the theater! Karen Lovely has been talked about, written about across the country and into Europe, where she is scheduled to tour again in early June 2015. She has recorded multiple CD’s and received many awards for her songs and shows. Karen has this beautiful smile and warmth when you meet her, and I can immediately see how things get to be real fun on stage when she starts this high-jump dance that she does in time with the music which just fuels the already “on-fire “musicians at her side. I love to see real energy like this where it’s not contrived, just a natural pulse reaction to the feeling within, which some artists, and certainly the three here being mentioned are all blessed with. During the Intermission I got to spend a few minutes with Karen in the green room and I immediately was put at ease, as though I’d just met up again with a long lost friend. She’s just that way and I cannot wait to see her perform again in the near future.
Rounding out this terrific band of friends this evening were Keyboardist Louis Pain and Willis Moss on drums and vocals. Louis Pain is affectionately known as King Louis as well as Portland’s Best Kept Secret of the Northwest. Well schooled in the vanishing art of the Hammond B-3 and the modern-tech NORD keyboard systems, Louis and his authentic “ Leslie “ speaker system talk, I mean sing to the band in a tone and texture that you really either know, or have to experience for yourself or you’ll be clueless to my reference. The B3 sound has been around since the nineteen-forties, decades before Louis Pains’ time, but thanks heaven he took a path in music that is void of the millions of players, like we (dime-a-dozen lol!) guitar slingers! A person who understands the B3 can make up a wall of sound all on their own with precise control of volume, dynamic key articulation and variance of the rotation in the Leslie. It’s a superb sound and addition to any music but lends itself well to Blues, Jazz and of course Gospel music. Louis is a fine player and my observation is that he, like each of the players in this lineup was equal on all levels.
Now, for my dear friend Willis Moss; as I mentioned last week in the promotion for this show, Mr. Moss is one of the rare ones who has walked through the fires of life and came out a new and reinvented soul. Plagued by diabetes and related ill-health for a lifetime, Willis received both a donor pancreas and a kidney and has been doing very well for going on ten years now. He appreciates life and has dedicated himself to promotion of music and the artists who play with passion. Moss surrounds himself with the best of the best as evidenced here in this show with the great Lloyd Jones, Mann, Lovely and Pain. Willis is a very talented drummer who is right there in the pocket, solid but never getting in the way of the music, rather driving it forward just as a great drummer should do. On top of that, he’s one of the best Blues singers in the business, looks good in a hat and is just a damn fine human being who is relentless at promoting regional music events and encouraging everyone around him to live life to the fullest.
This review would not be complete without a mention of the man at the helm of the Columbia Theatre, Gian Paul Morrelli, without whose help and love for music and the arts none of this would have happened in a place called Longview Washington. I spoke with Mr. Morrelli in his office prior to the show starting and came away convinced that this is a man with great ideas who just wants to bring good music and entertainment to the people with no agendas of his own. In the coming months there will be many more great shows at the Historic Columbia Theatre which Gian will be producing with a full lighting and amazing sound system in place. The building itself is warm, comfortable and a work of architecture and pure Art. A bar is available for your favorite beverages during the intermissions and there is plenty of safe, well-lighted parking adjacent to the theatre. Watch for the updates and upcoming shows all about the Columbia Theatre right here in DGT!