A Gathering of Friends at the CI Bar & Grill

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From Left, Pete Moss on sax, George Discant on harmonica, guitarists Ken Scandlyn, Rouke Vanderveen, and Gary Hines, Jimi Bott on drums, Jim Solberg on bass and Ed Neumann on keyboards.
From Left, Pete Moss on sax, George Discant on harmonica, guitarists Ken Scandlyn, Rouke Vanderveen, and Gary Hines, Jimi Bott on drums, Jim Solberg on bass and Ed Neumann on keyboards.
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As blues aficionados know, Portland has long been a magnet for talented musicians of all stripes. Fortunately for Tualatin, some of that talent spills over into our suburban outpost every Thursday night. The C.I. Bar and Grill plays weekly host to a fabulously fluid group of stellar artists who gather to play blues, rock, and whatever style moves them, all under the appropriate moniker, Ed Neumann and Friends.

The horn section spills off the C.I.’s small stage, featuring Dick McPartland on trombone and Pete Moss on sax.
The horn section spills off the C.I.’s small stage, featuring Dick McPartland on trombone and Pete Moss on sax.

A revered fixture in the Portland blues scene for more than 50 years, Ed Neumann anchors the band as a masterful keyboard player and vocalist; his right-hand man is world-renowned drummer Jimi Bott, formerly of The Fabulous Thunderbirds. The roster of Friends on any given Thursday varies according to who’s out on the road and who’s in town. And if you’re a first-timer meandering in, the level of excellence might just rock you back on your heels. Ed consistently brings in exceptional guitarists, vocalists, and more; about twice a month, the band includes a horn section, which might feature sax virtuosos such as Pete Moss or Scott Franklin, Joe Mac on trumpet, Dick McPartland on trombone, or a spontaneous ensemble of brass.

“I use different artists every week,” says Ed. “They live in Portland, but many of them are pros who tour, flying all over the world.”

You never know who’s going to join Ed onstage; it could be guitarist Ken Scandlyn, back from touring with blues singer Shemekia Copeland, or Peter Dammann, ace guitarist and backbone of Portland’s Waterfront Blues Festival. Ed also features world-class regulars such as bassist Jim Solberg, and monthly guests like Suburban Slim (aka Phil Wagner) and vocalist Grace London. Whoever shows up, you know it’s going to be good.

Ed Neumann.
Ed Neumann.

While Ed’s been gathering the “Friends” for about seven years, his relationship with the C.I. goes back nearly 25 years, when he played keyboard with the late, great Jim Mesi. And while he’s in demand at venues in Oregon and beyond, Ed’s got a soft spot for the C.I.

“It’s a very special place… great food, great service, the people are friendly…and Thursday nights are phenomenal.”

While enjoying the music, you might notice something else; the band is having a blast. The camaraderie is evident.

Says C.I. regular Steve McGuire, who’s been a fan since the beginning, “I like the banter between songs, they’re up there having a great time. It’s fun to watch.”

Adds Jimi Bott, “I just love playing with Ed. His catalog is so diverse; it makes it really interesting as a drummer. Ed’s one of those rare keyboard players who can play bass with his left hand, and play the top end (whether piano, synth, or organ) with his right. He’s just a great musician.”

Jim Solberg.
Jim Solberg.

Ed has equal praise for Jimi, founder of Roseleaf Recording Studios, who’s been nominated International Blues Drummer of the Year a record 20 times. “Jimi’s world-class. He might get a call tomorrow and be flown off to Holland or somewhere,” says Ed, “He’s one of the most recorded drummers in history. And he’s got an ear to die for.”

Guitarist Jeff Barnes piles on: “Jimi’s one of the best. He knows how to build, and when to hold back. It’s pretty rare. He keeps his ears open to the music.”

Jeff just so happens to be one of Ed’s favorite guitarists. “Jeff’s got great tone, a diversity of styles, very eclectic. He’s also one of my favorite individuals.”

The bar is pretty high when it comes to playing with Ed’s band, according to Jeff; “You have to be good enough at your craft to catch it on the fly. You have to adapt, know the lingo, and have a sharp ear.”  

When Ed calls with a gig, Jeff says, “I take anything Ed throws at me, because I love him. He’s like my brother. It’s an added plus when you actually like the people you play with.”

Pete Moss.  

“Ed’s thing is, he never forgot that music is supposed to be fun,” says Jimi. “That’s hard to maintain when you make your living doing this for as long as we’ve done. For me, it’s just a really great thing to show up and know that we’re happy to see each other, and we’re gonna make some really great music.”

For Ed, making music and seeing smiling faces in the crowd “is pretty much what we live for. I relate it to the Holy Spirit in church, when the congregation is united. Musicians need those people out there, we’re connected. And I’m enjoying my music more now than I ever have.”

So what are you doing next Thursday? Stop in and find out what all the hype’s about. Take it from superfan Steve McGuire, who highly recommends Thursdays at the CI: “If I’m in town, that’s where I’m going on Thursday night.”

Catch Ed Neumann and Friends Thursday nights at 8:00 p.m. at the C.I. Bar and Grill, 18786 SW Boones Ferry Rd.

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