"If this band appeared in New York City, they'd be a sensation!" That was guitar great--and one-time Mel Brown bandmate--George Benson's reaction after hearing the Mel Brown B-3 Organ Group open for him back in September, 2003 at Oregon's prestigious Britt Festival.
In fact, this true all-star band--each member is widely viewed as tops in the Northwest on his instrument--has been a sensation for a long while now. With a collective resume that reads like a "Who's Who" of jazz, blues, and soul, this group has the talent and confidence to be completely spontaneous--from their blistering solos to their improvised arrangements and segues. No wonder they've thrilled audiences wherever they've played. Those venues have included Portland's top jazz club, Jimmy Mak's (every Thursday night for the entire 20-year run of that legendary jazz venue), the Jack London Revue (home to the band for the past 3 years), the Safeway Waterfront Blues Festival, The Britt Festival, The Mt. Hood Jazz Festival, the Rose City Festival, the Bite Of Oregon, The Port Townsend Jazz Festival, Jazz in the Valley, the Newport, OR Jazz Festival, Jazz at the Oxford, the Montavilla Jazz Festival, and many more.
An Oregon icon, Mel has been labeled the "Gentleman of Jazz," with a career spanning over forty years. The city of Portland proclaimed June 22, 1989 Mel Brown Day in recognition of Mel's achievements as a musician and educator, and he received the Governor's Arts Award in 2002. Mel is also a member of the Oregon Music Hall of Fame.
Mel first made his mark as a Motown staff drummer, recording and touring with Martha Reeves, The Temptations, Smokey Robinson, and others. He subsequently spent ten years working with Diana Ross and other pop acts before giving up the road in 1991 and returning home to his first love: jazz.
Mel has been a fixture in Portland ever since. He lead different groups six nights each and every week for 20 years at Portland’s Jimmy Mak's and other venues, and he now holds forth weekly at the Jack London Revue on Thursdays, at Salty’s On The Columbia on Fridays, and at Christo’s Pizzaria (in Salem, OR) every 2nd Saturday. He also stays busy recording, playing big band gigs, and backing top visiting artists like Joey DeFrancesco, Benny Golson and Martha Reeves. And somehow, Mel keeps up this busy musical schedule while maintaining a day job as a tax accountant!
Dan is widely considered the defining sound of contemporary jazz guitar in the Northwest. Described by the Los Angeles Times as "the model of what a contemporary guitarist should be," Dan is one of the most original and creative artists to come from the fertile Northwest music scene. Dan has performed with a long list of jazz greats, including Diane Schur, Joey deFrancesco, and Les McCann. Dan has released six CDs of his own, is active as a jazz educator, and is a noted composer. www.danbalmer.com
Renato Caranto arrived in the U.S. From his native Philippines with no possessions save a suitcase full of clothes and his horn. After touring the West Coast for a decade with a Philippine Top 40 band, Renato settled in Portland in 1992 and began playing the kind of music he loved: blues, soul, & jazz. But jazz was Renato's true passion, and he never stopped studying and practicing with the goal of breaking into Portland's jazz scene.
Gradually, Renato began playing more jazz gigs and recording sessions, appearing with top Portland players including Mel Brown and Thara Memory. Renato is now in constant demand, picking and choosing the projects he wants to participate in. In 2013, Renato toured the world with Grammy-winning artist Esperanza Spalding. And--demonstrating Renato's remarkable versatility--he later toured with Merle Haggard until be playing west coast dates with country music legend Merle Haggard until the country legend's passing in 2016! www.renatocaranto.com
Dubbed "Portland's boss of the B-3" by The Oregonian, Louis actually hails from San Francisco, where he played and recorded with a wide variety of top musicians, including Tower of Power guitarist Bruce Conte, Santana saxophonist Jules Broussard, Edwin Hawkins vocalist Dorothy Morrison, and B.B. King saxophonist Bobby Forte.
After moving north in '86, Louis continued the trend, working with top local and visiting jazz, blues, and soul artists, as well as leading his own groups. The last three releases on Louis’ Shoug Records label—including the 2019 debut recording by the King Louie Organ Trio—have all been honored by Downbeat in their annual “Best Albums of the Year” issue. Louis’ knack for playing exactly what's needed to further the song has made him Portland's "first call" organist—and an Oregon Music Hall of Fame inductee. www.louispain.com