A man with a tenor sax is waiting to jam. A couple just pulled up chairs by the stage, and there’s two guys in the back playing a board game.
It’s a real mellow atmosphere, with Paul Green crooning “Lost Mind”, just about to let his harmonica wail through The Black Dog cafe.
Green, North Bend’s resident blues legend, takes the stage every week here. Music, the blues in particular, has been his life, ever since he picked up a harmonica at age 20.
Blues music is still vibrant, and Green does his part to keep it that way. He’ll be one of a dozen performers to rouse North Bend’s downtown Saturday, April 20, at the inaugural North Bend Blues Walk.
“I was always attracted, from a young age, to blues and jazz,” says Green.
Growing up in New Jersey, Green came from a musical, artistic family—his mother was a dancer in the New York Metropolitan Opera, and his father was a ceramicist. Elizabeth, N.J., was a white, upper-class community, but nearby were towns with large African-American populations. Green remembers hearing R&B and some blues, from an early age. He asked his mom for his first John Lee Hooker album at age 12, started listening religiously to the local college’s late Sunday blues radio show, and keyed in on a broad range of recording artists.
Green had a late start to his career. Listening to a Paul Butterfield album, he decided to try harmonica. After a year, he was pretty good. Around 1970, he got the chance to sit in with the band at an Ashbury Park club called the Cat’s Meow. Terrified at first, he played his heart out, and the people liked it. He was invited back the next week, and his career began.
Performing as a member of house bands at blues spots, and with his own bands, Green’s career has taken him from New Jersey to Oakland, Calif., and the Bay Area. In 1989, he moved to Chicago, performing in Buddy Guy’s ‘Legends’ club, among others, sharing the stage with a number of greats.
He moved to the Seattle area in 1991, and has gotten a lot of notice in the Northwest for his harmonica and vocal work.
With his band Straight Shot, a blues, funk and R&B group, Green is a regular at events like the North Bend Block Party.
Green is technically retired, but still plays. He does it for the love. Five months ago, Green approached the owners of The Black Dog in Snoqualmie with an idea.
With Boxley’s popularizing jazz and blues up the road, “I thought it would be nice to have something similar in Snoqualmie,” he said. The owners agreed, and so Green joined forces with Snoqualmie’s Chris Clark, an experienced bass player and regular guest player and youth mentor at Boxley’s, for weekly blues sessions.
Blues Walk performer Paul Green, with Chris Clark, left, and guest Carolyn Graye, on piano, performs at the Black Dog; Seth Truscott Photo
This weekend’s Blues Walk is important, says Green, because of the role it plays in keeping the blues growing and vibrant.
“It’s going to be great,” Green says of the upcoming walk. Last fall’s Jazz Walk was a big success.
“The purpose is to not only provide music for the community, but also to support the Boxley’s Music Fund, which does education for young musicians, as well as paying the musicians who play at Boxley’s and other functions,” he explains.
Boxley’s Music Fund founder Danny Kolke says the commitment of musicians like Green pushes others to share their best.
“It’s what excellence always does,” he told the Record. “It inspires us to be more than we are. And it’s part of the magic of the blues.”
Here in the Northwest, the blues music scene is quite good, says Green. But given the state of the economy, it’s not what it used to be. Some places that used to feature live music have closed down.
“But there’s still places to play,” he says.
“Blues, and any form of music, goes through ups and downs. But there’ll always be blues and jazz in this country.”
The North Bend Blues Walk is 6 p.m. Saturday, April 20.
Performers include Paul Green, Little Bill and the Blue Notes, the T-Town Aces, Blues Redemption, the Brian Lee Trio, and others.
Thirteen venues in the downtown area take part.
Tickets are $18 for adults and $8 for children under age 15, in advance, $20 and $10 on the day of the event.
The Blues Walk is sponsored by the Boxley Music Fund, a non-profit effort to support live musical performance and education.
Monthly Educational Clinics in partnership to enhance local music programs and inspire students.
The fund promotes monthly music lesson scholarships to help students who can’t afford to take lessons, funds the Future Jazz Heads and formation of student groups to create the next generation of jazz musicians, and also promotes regional music festivals, drawing new visitors to the Valley.
You can learn more about the Music Fund at http://www.boxleysplace.com/web/boxleys_music_fund.espx?fund=on