By A.J. Wachtel
This talented artist came into my universe when I got a message from his mother who I originally knew as a waitress at The Rat decades ago. She told me that “Johnny Angel Wendell (The Blackjacks, The Swinging E’s) told me to get in touch with you to give my son some press.” I’m glad she did, this young singer/songwriter/guitarist extraordinaire sure can play! Listen to what he has to say…
Noise: What’s your take on the New England blues scene?
Jimmy Bez: It seems to be growing. There are more and more festivals starting up and booking great acts.
Noise: Are you gonna have to relocate to further your career?
Bez: I’m not sure. There are definitely places with a stronger music scene than Boston but I have a good following here and the blues community has been very supportive of my music.
Noise: What kind of gear do you use and why?
Bez: I primarily use Gibson guitars because that’s what I grew up playing and hearing and I use old Marshall amps with Celestion speakers.
Noise: What are some of the good things and some of the bad things you see about the local music scene?
Bez: A good thing is that people still seem to be supportive of the music they like. One bad thing is that so many of the classic live music venues have been closing.
Noise: Why does a teenager choose the blues today over rap and hip hop?
Bez: The music my friends listen to doesn’t interest me. It’s computerized and has no emotion or meaning to me.
Noise: Are there any similarities between the blues and rap and hip hop?
Bez: A really good song in any genre is a good song. The best ones get stuck in your head even if it’s not usually your thing.
Noise: Who are some of your favorite national and local artists?
Bez: I’m a big fan of Phillip Sayce, Gary Clark Jr., Doyle Bramhall, Joe Bonamassa and other guys like them. Locally, my favorite player is Monster Mike Welch. He’s an amazing player and a super nice guy.
Noise: You are a teenager. Do you have any personal blues stories yet?
Bez: Yeah, of course. All people get the blues, even kids. The blues hits everyone in some way at one point or another.
Noise: You are a true guitar prodigy. By the age of 12 you were already a prominent player on the rock scene in Boston, getting awards as well as radio play for your original songs. Care to comment?
Bez: I think of myself as more of someone who knew what I wanted to do at an early age and put in the necessary work. Mozart was a prodigy. I just worked hard.
Noise: Last year, the Jimmy Bez Band represented Boston at The International Blues Challenge in Memphis to rave reviews. Tell us about your experience at the awards show.
Bez: It was amazing to see that much talent in one place. Beale Street really is the best place in the world for blues fans. We represented Boston in the 2016 International Blues Challenge in Memphis with fellow blues band Steve Morgan and The Kingfish. They’re a fantastic classic blues band from the Cape and the nicest guys you’ll ever meet. They’ve been incredibly supportive of my music. Steve even plays my originals on his blues show on WOMR 92.1 and WFMR 91.3 on the Cape. They came to our performance at the Tin Roof on Beale Street just to support us. They even took me out to see The Delgado Brothers later that night who ended up winning the competition last year. They were out of this world and I would have missed seeing them if those guys hadn’t invited me. Every club on Beale Street has back to back blues performances the entire week until two a.m. It’s insane. You couldn’t see them all if you tried. We were also asked to do a Youth Performance show at the Center for Southern Folklore in downtown Memphis on the last day of the Challenge by the Florida youth winner Brittany Russell who is a fantastic young singer originally from Memphis. I believe she is the niece of Reba Russell who is known as the Queen of Memphis Blues. The show was us, Brittany’s band, an amazing upcoming female singer and guitarist from Texas named Ally Venable who is doing really well these days. I just saw she was named in the “10 Blues Stars Under 30 Ti Watch” by American Blues Scene along with Leon Bridges and Christone “Kingfish” Ingram which is extremely impressive. Also on that bill was a phenomenal.18 year old guitarist and singer from Ohio named Joe Tellman. All of the acts were incredibly talented but Joe really impressed me. It was very cool meeting blues acts my age from across the country. We ended up friending each other on FB and keeping in touch. Hopefully we’ll get together to play again someday.
Noise: Your style is often compared to a young Bonamassa with hints of Clapton and Mike Bloomfield. Fact or fiction?
Bez: Those guys are definitely influences of mine but I also learn a lot from people like Gary Moore and Mick Taylor.
Noise: Monster guitar chops and great songwriting are only part of your great equation. What’s the rest?
Bez: I think the best thing you can do is be friendly and easy to work with. The music industry has enough cocky jerks.
Noise: How about a cool story about a local gig?
Bez: I’ve been extremely fortunate since the Blues Challenge and gotten to open for some amazing national blues acts – Samantha Fish, Eric Gales, Carolyn Wonderland, Lazer Lloyd, and Joe Moss. Also Sugar Ray and The Bluetones and Gary Hoey who are both local bands who tour nationally. The coolest gig was probably when I opened for blues legend Tinsley Ellis at Thunder Road in Somerville, back in July. Tinsley’s a monster player and a super nice guy. He even let me play his 1959 vintage Strat that used to belong to Stevie Ray Vaughn. Thunder Road is definitely one of my favorite Boston venues- a great room, sound and staff. It’s the old Radio club that closed a few years ago and before that the old Jasper’s that my parent’s remember. The owners Dan Millen and Charlie Abel are very supportive of the blues and have been very supportive of me. Charlie is a founding member of the Boston Blues Society and used to own Harper’s Ferry. He’s definitely one of the guys keeping the blues alive in Boston.
Noise: You released Lies of a Sinner last year. Describe the music on it and what’s your favorite song and why?
Bez: Lies of a Sinner was recorded at the Den Studios in North Reading, MA and was produced by my good friend and mentor Doug Batchelder. It’s four of my originals and a Freddy King cover. My favorite song on the album is probably the title track.
Noise: What’s in the future for Jimmy Bez?
Bez: We’re ready to record a full length album for 2017 and are currently looking for some management or representation to help us get to the next level.