pdxJazz Presents
West Coast Blues:
Celebrating Wes, Jimmy, and Trane
with special guest Henry Johnson

Wednesday 24 February 2016
Jimmy Mak's, Portland, Oregon








Henry Johnson / Guitar
Mel Brown / Drums
Louis Pain / Hammond organ
Renato Caranto / Saxophone

Henry Johnson

The Chicago-born guitarist began playing at age twelve. While spending some formative time in Memphis, he started playing gospel music at age thirteen. By age fourteen, Johnson was playing in R&B groups. Although Johnson’s parents brought him up hearing the music of Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Joe Williams, and other artists of that era, it was not until 1967 that Johnson was formally introduced to jazz by hearing guitarist Wes Montgomery. In 1969, Johnson and his family then moved back to Chicago where he developed a reputation on the south side as a good local jazz guitarist. In 1976, he went on the road with jazz organist Jack McDuff and was called to work with vocalist, Donny Hathaway in 1977.

In 1979, Johnson began playing with jazz pianist, Ramsey Lewis. And in 1985, jazz legend, Joe Williams added Johnson to his regular group. Johnson’s musical roots run deep into gospel, blues, and jazz. His strongest and earliest influences were Kenny Burrell, George Benson, and most significantly, Wes Montgomery. While influenced by these great guitarists, Johnson also cites the music of Herbie Hancock, Oscar Peterson, Freddie Hubbard, Miles Davis, big bands, and jazz orchestras as integral forces which shaped his sound and style.

For the pdxJazz Montgomery program, West Coast Blues, the Indianapolis native will be remembered by a close neighbor to the north, the Chicago guitarist and former impulse! recording artist Henry Johnson. Montgomery who spent considerable time on the west coast, and had a huge hit with Bumpin' On Sunset, also had a fondness for organ players, most notable was the hookup with Jimmy Smith.

Johnson who claims Montgomery as his biggest influence also knows about organists-he's played with Smith and notable others; Jack McDuff, Richard "Groove" Holmes, Lonnie Smith, Shirley Scott, and Joey DeFrancesco. Johnson who makes his Portland debut, is perhaps best known through his tenures with Joe Williams, Nancy Wilson and Ramsey Lewis. Holding down this major musical intersection will be Mel Brown on drums, Louis Pain on Hammond organ and Renato Caranto on sax.

Mel Brown

Brown was employed as a session musician for many Motown Records artists in the late 1960s and early 1970s, including Martha and the Vandellas, Stevie Wonder, The Temptations and Marvin Gaye. It was not Motown's policy to print the names of the backing band members at the time, so he is not credited on the album notes for many of his recordings.

Brown came to Motown via Martha Reeves who hired him in 1967 to join her band, at comedian Redd Foxx's recommendation. Brown played for Reeves and the Vandellas for a couple of years (she gives him a shout out on her unreleased Live at the Copa album) before Motown hired him away as a studio musician and to travel with other Motown acts. Coming full circle, Reeves and Brown reunited in 2010 when Martha was booked at the Portland night club called, amazingly, "Jimmy Mak's."

Brown also recorded drums on the George Harrison song "My Sweet Lord" released in 1970 on the album All Things Must Pass.

Brown continues to play jazz and blues at Jimmy Mak's and other Portland venues on a weekly basis, with some of the Pacific Northwest's most prominent jazz, funk and soul musicians. He also organizes the Mel Brown summer camp for students of jazz at Western Oregon University.

Louis "King Louie" Pain

Louis Pain, dubbed "Portland's boss of the B-3" by The Oregonian, is a musician's musician. (Just read the testimonial quotes at this site's "Home" page to confirm that.) When called upon, Louis is a dynamic soloist, but he specializes in the subtle art of making the musicians and vocalists he works with sound their best. For him, the song's the thing, not showing off. That's why he's always in demand with his peers.

It's been that way since Louis started playing professionally in his hometown of San Francisco back in 1970. Starting out in "Top 40" bands, Louis quickly graduated to playing in a variety of genres with some of the best musicians in the Bay Area, including funk guitarist Bruce Conte (Tower of Power), jazz saxophonist Jules Broussard (Ray Charles, Santana), gospel vocalist Dorothy Morrison (Edwin Hawkins Singers), and the late rock/jazz saxophonist Cornelius Bumpus (Doobie Bros & Steely Dan).

Since moving to Portland in '86, Louis has continued the trend, working regularly with top Portland blues/soul artists including the late, great Paul deLay and Linda Hornbuckle, Curtis Salgado, Lloyd Jones, Andy Stokes, and Lisa Mann, as well as with jazz musicians Mel Brown, Thara Memory, Dan Faehnle, and Dan Balmer. Louis also is the "first call" organist to back visiting musical legends, who have included Bernard "Pretty" Purdie," Phil Upchurch, Martha Reeves, the Shirelles, and now-departed musical giants Solomon Burke, Howard Tate, and Bo Diddley.

In the past few years, Louis has added some uber-talented young musicians to his list of collaborators, including Austin-based blues-rock singer/songwriter/guitarist Ty Curtis and NYC-based jazz saxophonist Hailey Niswanger.

Renato Caranto

“Out front with his smoldering tenor saxophone, is the man with more soul in his little finger than most of us have in our whole bodies, Renato Caranto.” - J.D. of Jimmy Mak’s

Renato can bop hard, lay out a swinging groove, and play a ballad so sweet it will send shivers up your spine.

Born in a small province in the Philippines in 1955, Renato studied music with his musician father from a very young age. He started performing professionally at the age of 15 and eventually traveled from his native homeland to Japan and Guam where his skills soon attracted the attention of booking agents from the U.S.

Renato arrived in America in 1981 and meticulously studied and honed his skills during the years he spent on the road touring with various top-40 cover bands. He burst onto the Portland, Oregon music scene in 1992 and has not stopped since. The early years were spent playing the Blues with many notable local groups which led to several yearly awards for “Best Blues Horn” from the Cascade Blues Association. But his greatest desire was to play Jazz. He got his wish in 1995 when drummer Mel Brown recognized his tremendous talent and asked him to join his group at the newly opened Jimmy Mak’s club. That group, the Mel Brown B3 Organ Group, is still going strong today and gaining new fans every time they play.

Renato is now a firm fixture in the music community throughout the Pacific Northwest and beyond. He has recorded and/or performed with many notable local greats (Mel Brown, Tom Grant, Michael Allen Harrison, David Ornette Cherry, Dan Balmer, Alan Jones, Sweet Baby James, Louis Pain, Ron Steen) as well as many nationally known talents (Esperanza Spalding, Bernard Purdie, Arturo Sandoval, Curtis Fuller, Javon Jackson, James Carter, Clarence Clemons, the Temptations, the Four Tops, Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown, Grant Green, Rob Paparozzi of Blood, Sweat & Tears, Bruce Conte and Mic Gillette of Tower of Power, Teddy Edwards, horn section for Harry Connick, Jr,). He has performed in all of the major festivals in the area and was the featured artist and poster-musician for the Cathedral Park Jazz Festival in 2006.


pdxJazz is a non-profit cultural arts organization dedicated to curating jazz in Portland, Oregon and the Pacific Northwest. We strive to inspire, educate and develop future jazz audiences for generations to come.



Audio and video recording by Alan Niven in ten channels and two cameras. Mixed by Alan NIven. Produced by wolftraks.com for pdxJazz, Portland, Oregon.