Ronnie Baker Brooks & Coco Montoya

Friday
20
Mar

Profound Blues & Hard Rockin' Good Times

Why you should see this show…

With Ronnie Baker Brooks and Coco Montoya sharing the stage, we can guarantee a night packed with profound blues and hard rocking good times. Here’s what the critics have to say about these two incredible blues guitarists:

“In Ronnie Baker Brooks’ powerhouse hands, blues-rock never sounded so outrageous. Soul never sounded so delicious. And the blues never sounded so profound… one of today’s top live performers.” – Blues Revue

“In a world of blues guitar pretenders, Coco Montoya is the real McCoy. He exudes power and authenticity. Be prepared to get scorched by the real thing.” – Billboard

“Phenomenal and funky…soulful vocals and inspired blues-rock guitar” – The Washington Post

“An inspired blend of high-energy blues, R&B and roadhouse rock…soulful, celebratory vocals and exquisite, stellar guitar” – Blues Revue
 

 

Ronnie Baker Brooks Bio
On the first day recording Times Have Changed – the eleven-track album from Chicago bluesman Ronnie Baker Brooks that brings a sound so big it could topple a Louisiana juke joint – industry-revered album producer and drummer Steve Jordan told Brooks to put his pedal board back in the van. For the first time in his professional life, Brooks, the son of Texas and Chicago blues legend Lonnie “Guitar Jr.” Brooks, would plug a Gibson into TKTK amp and rip it straight from there.

“Back to the basics. The pedals get in the way of your tone – your natural tone. Any distortion I had came straight out of the amp,” Brooks remembers from the Times sessions. “It was almost like going to college, or grad school. It was definitely an education.”

Brooks, 49, likes to treat each album he makes as a platform for him to grow, but the reality is that he’s been climbing the blues world’s latter all his life. He was born in Chicago, and started playing guitar around age six. At 19, he joined his father, who by then had influenced some of the most well-known bluesman of our history: Jimmy Reed, the Fabulous Thunderbirds, Johnny Winter, and Junior Wells. For 12 years the two would tour together, putting Ronnie out front with Eric Clapton, B.B. King, Buddy Guy, and Koko Taylor. In 1998, when he was 32, his father told him to go solo.

Baker already had a band by then, one he’d been touring on the side with since 1992. But by 1998 he’d started a label; that year he made his first album, Golddigger, 16 songs tracked out in two weeks. “My dad always said to keep writing, even if you don’t think the song sounds great or you can’t finish it,” says Baker. “Write. Continue to write. The more you write, the better you get.” Take Me Witcha came three years later; his second album on Watchdog Records. Brooks broke out as his own champion on 2006’s The Torch. The Boston Herald called it “ferocious and unrelenting … the year’s best blues album.”

In the ten years since The Torch, Brooks has started a family, toured North America and Europe, and taken feature spots on the records of other bluesmen. He produced Eddy Clearwater’s West Side Strut and contributed guitar work to albums from Elvin Bishop, the Legendary Rhythm & Blues Review, Billy Branch, and Big Head Todd.

Times Have Changed, Brooks’ first album in ten years, carries with it the weight of grown perspective and time spent perfecting old material. Brooks worked it with Steve Jordan, whose work runs from Keith Richard to Stevie Wonder, John Mayer and Eric Clapton. With that comes a lesson in rhythm and blues history. Brooks refers to the director as “a walking encyclopedia of music detail and equipment,” a professor through which Brooks could take that next developmental step. “Once we got the ball rolling, my confidence went higher and higher,” he says. “I’m a better musician for this experience.”

The experience Brooks is talking about is that which came together over the course of a few weeks at Royal Studios in Memphis, the home of Al Green, Syl Johnson, Bobby “Blue” Bland, and O.V. Wright, whose 1974 hit “Blind, Crippled, and Crazy” gets a facelift on Times Have Changed. Jordan and Brooks brought in a mint press of Memphis music royalty: Stax Records staple Steve Cropper (Booker T. & the M.G.’s, Otis Redding, Sam & Dave), Archie Turner (Al Green, Syl Johnson, O.V. Wright), jazz saxophonist Lannie McMillan, and R&B icon Angie Stone.

“We used the same mics that Al Green used on his record,” says Brooks. “Matter of fact, we were using much of the same band! It kind of took that vibe.” The first track recorded was a cover of Curtis Mayfield’s Superfly hit “Give Me Your Love.” The second, “Twine Time,” the instrumental jam from Alvin Cash.

“To be honest with you, when Steve said ‘Man, we need an instrumental,’ the first person I thought of was Freddie King. Steve wanted something more appealing to all people, not just guitar players. He said ‘What about ‘Twine Time?’’ I said, ‘Is he serious?’ Yeah, ‘Twine Time.’ But that song was a key to this album. Man, that just lit the fire for this record. It became one of the funnest tracks we did.”

Times also comes laden with original hits. Five of the eleven tracks were penned by Brooks. Raised on others’ music, he’s always considered the songwriting process to be as sacred. “It’s like having a baby,” he says. “You see it come to live. Once you play it live, it grows even more. That was the most fun part of it, for me: the creative side. Coming up with a song people can relate to, and you relate to, it just snowballs. It’s almost like therapy for me. Like the song ‘Times Have Changed’: I wrote that song years ago. I sent Steve my songs and he picked that one. It’s kind of timeless. Every day something’s changing. Now, when I play it live, you can see the effect of it. Initially, it was just an idea: just a riff. Now, this song has influence on people. We were just in Europe this year, after the bombing in Brussels. And we’re playing Brussels. I played that song; people were in tears. It helped them heal.”

It’s on that title track that Brooks brandishes what may be his finest songwriting talent: the ability to humanize social issues and unite different voices into one cohesive thought. That’s no more evident than in the latter stages of the song, in which Brooks deploys his longtime friend, Memphis’ Al Kapone, to drop 32 bars on what the future holds for our people.

“My whole intention, when I started with Golddigger and up through this one, was to be authentic enough for the older generation but have something that the younger generation could latch onto,” says Brooks. “I try to be that bridge. With Take Me Witcha, I’ve got a rapper on that. On The Torch we went with Al. He’s a bridge. He’s a bridge from blues to hip-hop. With music, it all comes from the heart. It comes from the heart and from the soul. It blues, it doesn’t matter what you’re talking about, it definitely relates.

 

 

Coco Montoya Bio
“In a world of blues guitar pretenders, Coco Montoya is the real McCoy. He exudes power and authenticity. Be prepared to get scorched by the real thing.” –Billboard

“Coco Montoya sings and plays with passionate abandon.” –The Boston Globe

Between his white-hot guitar playing and his soulful, emotional vocals, Coco Montoya has talent to burn. In a career that spans almost four decades, he’s gone from drumming for blues icon Albert Collins to holding the lead guitar spot in John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers to leading his own band and touring worldwide. Montoya is revered for his ability to move from subtly melodic guitar playing to slash-and-burn pyrotechnics. Equally forceful are his deep, soul-baring vocals. Years of constant touring, playing unforgettable shows at clubs, concert halls and festivals, have earned him his position at the top of the contemporary blues world. And it all started with a chance meeting in the mid-1970s with legendary bluesman Albert Collins, who offered Montoya a spot in his band, where he stayed for the next five years. Coco was initially hired as Collins’ drummer and later—with Albert mentoring him on the guitar—became the band’s rhythm guitarist. A few years after leaving Collins’ band, British blues star John Mayall heard Coco jamming onstage and was so impressed that he hired him for the newly reformed Bluesbreakers.

When Montoya launched his solo career in 1993, he already had an instantly recognizable burning-hot sound and style all his own. His debut album solidified his stature as the blues’ newest rising star. Over the course of his nine previous solo albums, Montoya has consistently delivered piping hot blues, rock and soul. His new album (his fifth for Alligator), Coming In Hot, is another instant classic. Montoya’s fiery, melodic guitar playing and passionate vocals fuel one memorable song after another. Guitar Player says Montoya plays “stunning, powerhouse blues with a searing tone, emotional soloing, and energetic, unforced vocals.”

Coming In Hot, produced by Tony Braunagel (Eric Burdon, Curtis Salgado, Taj Mahal, Bonnie Raitt), features 11 songs, ranging from the blistering, hard-rocking title track to the gritty and potent blues shuffle “Water To Wine” to the emotional ballad “What Am I?” He delivers Albert Collins’ “Lights Are On But Nobody’s Home” with uncompromising, dynamic energy. Montoya’s unpredictable guitar playing and smoking, soulful vocals are inspired by a backing band featuring renowned musicians including bassists Bob Glaub (Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, Jerry Lee Lewis) and Mike Mennell (Jimmy Buffett, John Fogerty), keyboardist Mike Finnigan (Jimi Hendrix, Etta James, Taj Mahal), rhythm guitarists Billy Watts (Eric Burdon) and Johnny Lee Schell (Bonnie Raitt), and Braunagel on drums.

Henry “Coco” Montoya was born in Santa Monica, California, on October 2, 1951, and raised in a working class family. Growing up, Coco immersed himself in his parents’ record collection. He listened to big band jazz, salsa, doo-wop and rock ‘n’ roll. His first love was drums; he acquired a kit at age 11. He got a guitar two years later. “I’m sure the Beatles had something to do with this,” Montoya recalls. “I wanted to make notes as well as beats.” But guitar was his secondary instrument. Montoya turned his love of drumming into his profession, playing in a number of area rock bands while still in his teens and eventually becoming an in-demand drummer.

In 1969, Montoya saw Albert King opening up a Creedence Clearwater Revival/Iron Butterfly concert at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles. He was transformed. “After Albert got done playing,” says Montoya, “my life was changed. When he played, the music went right into my soul. It grabbed me so emotionally that I had tears welling up in my eyes. Nothing had ever affected me to this level. He showed me what music and playing the blues were all about. I knew that was what I wanted to do.”

Then fate took over. In the early 1970s, Albert Collins was booked to play a matinee at the same small club in Culver City, California, where Montoya had played the night before. The club owner gave Collins permission to use Montoya’s drums. Montoya continues the story: “I show up to pick up my equipment and I see that someone had been playing my drums and I got a little angry with the club owner. So Albert called me up at the club and was real nice and apologetic. I went down to see his show and it just tore my head off. The thing that I had seen and felt with Albert King came pouring back on me when I saw Albert Collins.”

A few months later, Collins desperately needed a drummer for a tour of the Northwest and he called Coco. During the tour, Albert took Montoya under his wing, teaching him about blues music and life on the road. After the tour ended, Montoya remained in the band for five more years. It was during this time that Coco began doubling on guitar. And Albert went out of his way to teach him. “We’d sit in hotel rooms for hours and play guitar,” remembers Montoya. “He’d play that beautiful rhythm of his and just have me play along. He was always saying, ‘Don’t think about it, just feel it.’ He was like a father to me,” says Coco, who often crashed at Collins’ home. When he declared Montoya his “son,” it was the highest praise and affection he could offer. In return, Montoya learned everything he could from the legendary Master of the Telecaster.

In 1984, John Mayall needed a guitarist for the newly reformed Bluesbreakers. Hearing Coco at a jam session, he was blown away, and offered Coco this prestigious spot in his legendary band. Filling the shoes of previous Bluesbreaker guitarists Eric Clapton, Peter Green and Mick Taylor would not be easy, but Montoya knew he could not pass up the opportunity to play with another blues legend. For the next ten years he toured the world and recorded with Mayall, soaking up the experience of life on the road and in the recording studio. Along with fellow Bluesbreaker guitarist Walter Trout, Montoya was a featured member of the band, and often opened shows with his own blistering blues.

By the early 1990s, Montoya struck out on his own. His debut as a leader, 1995’s Gotta Mind To Travel (originally on Silvertone Records in England and later issued in the USA on Blind Pig Records), became an instant fan favorite. Blues fans, radio programmers and critics sent praise from all corners. The album immediately made it clear that Montoya was a guitarist and vocalist who ranked among the best players on the contemporary blues scene. In 1996, he won the Blues Music Award for Best New Blues Artist. Two more Blind Pig albums followed, and Coco was well on his way to the top of the blues-rock world.

In 2000, Coco’s Alligator debut, Suspicion, quickly became the best-selling album of his career, earning regular radio airplay on over 120 stations nationwide. Montoya’s fan base exploded. After two more highly successful and massively popular Alligator releases—2002’s Can’t Look Back and 2007’s Dirty Deal—Montoya signed with Ruf Records, cutting both a live and a studio album. Returning to Alligator with 2017’s Hard Truth, Montoya delivered another fan and critical favorite. “Montoya unleashes one career-topping performance after another.” declared Blues Matters, “the music immediately ranking among the best he’s ever recorded.”

Now, with Coming In Hot, Coco Montoya again turns the burners to high and cooks from start to finish. Still an indefatigable road warrior, Montoya continues to tour virtually nonstop, bringing audiences to their feet from New York to New Orleans to Chicago to San Francisco. Across the globe, he’s performed in countries including Australia, Belgium, Switzerland, Germany, Norway, England, Brazil, Argentina, Spain, Mexico, Ecuador, Italy, Poland, Russia, the Czech Republic and Canada. According to Living Blues, “Montoya is a show-stopper…heartfelt singing and merciless guitar with a wicked icy burn…he swings like a jazz man and stings like the Iceman, Albert Collins. He is one of the truly gifted blues artists of his generation.”

 

Dining Options

You have two dining options when attending a show in our Concert Hall:

Rusty Anchor at the Music Box – If you’d enjoy a more extensive menu, we suggest you dine downstairs in the Rusty Anchor before your concert. The Rusty Anchor menu features a great mix of Cleveland Comfort food including a selection of seafood, steaks & chops. Reservations are required for parties of two or more. To make a dinner reservation, please click here or call our Box Office at (216) 242-1250 and allow 90 minutes to dine prior to the beginning of the show upstairs.

Concert Hall – Our Concert Hall menu is fast to the table and allows you to dine right in your ticketed seat. So, there is no additional reservation required. The Concert Hall kitchen will be open through intermission. Table side beverage service will continue throughout the concert.