James "Boogaloo" Bolden Band at Dan Electro's, 2/7/2014
James "Boogaloo" Bolden has been at B.B. King's side for decades as band director. But with King, 87, slowing down a bit, Bolden is finding new avenues for his talent. For starters, he's just released a new album, No News, Jus' The Blues, and (along with producer/saxophonist Eric Demmer) has assembled a powerhouse big band that can blow the roof off any joint on any given night.
Friday night was no exception, as Bolden and Demmer, who spent more than a decade with the legendary Gatemouth Brown, put their nine-piece swingin' machine through some blistering paces at the venerable Heights blues/rock outpost. Consisting of some of Houston's top players -- piano genius Daryl Lavigne; red-hot sax maven and vocalist Evelyn Rubio; Charlie "Tuna" Dennis, B.B. King's longtime rhythm guitarist; local guitar god Teri Greene; sizzling trumpeter Roy Chapa; and father-son rhythm section Barry and Brandon Jackson -- the Bolden band is a beautiful thing to behold. In fact, it ranks right there with Grady Gaines' similar setup.
Bolden is an accomplished singer, but he wisely spreads the vocal work around between himself, Rubio, Demmer, and Dennis, who brought some low-down old-school nasty to his bawdy tunes.
Evelyn Rubio checks the merch table.
But the real reason to hear this band is the gale-force power coming off the stage when Demmer, Rubio, Chapa and Bolden blow their magic horns, a tour de force, roaming from big-city sophisticated jazzy arrangements to straight-up juke-joint jump. And when this band decides to bring on the funk it gets completely wicked, like Stevie Wonder's "Superstition" wicked.
Bolden also likes to step out of the spotlight and let his band show off, even making room for bass and drum solos. Normally we would rather have a migraine than sit through a drum solo, but following his father's mighty workout on bass, drummer Brandon Jackson laid down a quick drum clinic that dropped jaws all over the room. This young guy can fly.
In short, it looks like Bolden is going to be playing around town a lot more in the future. If he can hold this ensemble together, the blues is going to be alright in Houston. In fact, it's going to be mighty, mighty fine.
Personal Bias: Ladies' thong underwear with a sax player's photo. [See next page -- ed.]
The Crowd: Middle-aged and up, but very attentive and respectful.
Overheard in the Crowd: "Is that Boogaloo guy here tonight?"
Random Notebook Dump: Kam Franklin and Asli Omar get most of the young female vocal props around town these days, but Evelyn Rubio can hold her own with anyone.
More photos on the next page.