Those looking to get out of the Phoenix heat can find no better reason than the Flagstaff Blues and Brews festival on Saturday, June 21.
The event goes from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. at the Continental Driving Range.
Eden "Little Boogalo" Brent is a good place to start. Her Mississippi piano can bring an audience to life with a mix of blues, soul, jazz and pop. Her three-piece band includes Bobby Walker on drums and David Barard on bass.
Brent's nickname comes from her mentor. Brent had the good fortune to be mentored by Boogaloo Ames, a blues icon in Detroit and later in Mississippi. In 1999, PBS made a documentary about the pair called Boogaloo & Eden: Sustaining the Sound.
Brent lives in Greenville, Miss., about 300 miles down stream from Louisiana, or as she said: "About a four-day float."
Keep in mind, Brent started as a fan of Ames before she asked him to mentor her when she was about 18 and he was 68.
"I went from being a fan, to his No. 1 groupie, to playing with him. I was still in college. During my breaks, we would start playing together," she said. "He would play the piano and I would sing."
It was an odd couple. In her words, she was a white woman of privilege working with an older black man in the deep South.
"He taught me how to be entertaining," Brent said. "He taught me to look for what kind of songs crowds wanted. He taught me how to play the piano, and I encouraged him to sing. We would sing duets, and he had a delightful voice."
Brent said asking her what she liked best about Ames is like asking somebody what they liked best about Santa Claus.
"When he played the piano, he would be fluid with his right hand, but he would keep the groove with his left hand. His left hand was like a bass," she said.
Brent said Ames was one of the few solo performers who would make people want to get up and dance. That's how he earned his nickname "Boogaloo."
"Ames had charisma and charm. I liked him as much as a person as a musician," she said.
They performed together for about 10 years before he passed on in 2002.
"In 1986, I had my first paying gig because he was gone for the summer," she said. "I took his regular engagements for half the pay."
When Ames returned, they started performing together regularly.
Apparently Brent learned well -- in 2010, she won the Blues Music Awards' Pinetop Perkins Piano Player of the Year Award -- the most prestigious international blues piano player award.
"It was the best honor I ever had, but I felt like I was holding it for Boogaloo," she said.
Brent performed at an amphitheater in Flagstaff in 2006 and the crowd went wild when she played her own rendition of "Route 66." She also sold out her CDs during that gig.
"I'm tickled to return to Flagstaff because it should be just wonderful," she said.
She has a new CD for sale -- Jigsaw Heart, which she released in May. Brent will perform at 4 p.m.
Brent isn't the only attraction at the festival. The lineup also includes national stars Janiva Magness and Coco Montoya, along with Phoenix mainstay Bob Corritore (performing with the Junior Watson/Fred Kaplan Band), Bresnan Blues Band (from Sedona), and Road One South (Prescott).
Janiva Magness is one of the hottest female blues performers on the circuit today and performs in Phoenix periodically. She won the BB King Entertainer of the Year in 2009 and Contemporary Female Blues Artist of the Year in 2010. Her new CD, Original, is her ninth album. Magness will perform at 7:30 p.m.
Coco Montoya is known for his hot guitar licks. In the 1970s, Montoya joined Albert Collins band as the drummer before learning the guitar from him. He later played with John Mayall's Bluesbreakers for 10 years. In 2002, Montoya was featured on the Bo Diddley tribute album. Montoya is left-handed, but plays the left-handed guitar with a right-handed neck meaning the strings are upside down. Montoya will perform at 5:50 p.m.
Bob Corritore is an internationally renowned harmonica player who also owns the Rhythm Room and performs a weekly blues show on KJZZ radio. Corritore's new CD, Taboo, is completely instrumental, which his fans have been asking him to produce for years. Watson and Kaplan both perform on Taboo. Corritore with Watson and Kaplan will perform at 2:25 p.m.
Bresnan Blues Band hails from Sedona, but often play Phoenix venues. Dan Bresnan performs lead guitar and vocals, Michael Reed on sax and keyboard, Dr. Bob Sellani on drums and Hutch Hutchison on bass and vocals. The Bresnan Brothers is rocking blues as they just had their CD release party at Old Town Center for the Arts in Cottonwood June 14 for their new album Party in my Backseat. The Bresnan Brothers will perform at 1:05 p.m.
Road One South is out of Prescott. Road One South performs blues with Latin percussion to give the band a sound all its own. Ofer Harel provides the percussion, including tambourine, shakers and cowbells.
The other members are Chris Russo on guitar, Gregson Gordon on blues harp and vocals; Ron Green on bass; John Wurtz, guitar and main songwriter; and Dwight D'Evelyn on drums. Road One South will perform at 11:30 a.m.
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