If you ask any blues player in Portland or Seattle which guitarist they would most like to have in their band, the name ‘JIM MESI’ will inevitably appear near the top of the list. His compact stature and affinity for Italian suits make the onstage MESI look like a character in a Martin Scorsese movie. Selecting from the dozens of guitars in his legendary collection, Mesi spins out solos that dizzy and delight the listener.
The Portland native got his start in Brown Sugar, one of the leaders of Portland’s thriving 1970′s blues scene. Brown Sugar was the springboard for the careers of vocalist and blues harp maestro PAUL DELAY, guitarist/vocalist LLOYD JONES (the drummer then), and MESI. When the group broke up in the 1980′s, deLay and MESI continued as the Paul deLay Band. Throughout the decade, the deLay Band played to audiences of three hundred to five hundred people virtually every weekend.
A substantial addition to the MESI reputation came during this period, when the Paul deLay Band was opening a show for blues guitar legend B.B. KING. Toward the end of their set, Mesi looked out at the audience and noticed an especially familiar face up front. It was B.B. King himself, smiling, holding his hands as if praying, and bowing toward Mesi. Word quickly spread around the Northwest that the deLay Band had a guitar player personally blessed by the great B.B. King. In 1988 MESI broke away from the group, and started his own project, THE JIM MESI BAND. In 1994, THE MESI BAND, featuring singer Lily Wilde and guitarist Steve Bradley, released the live performance CD “Hot Night At The Candlelight” to rave reviews.
In 1996, MESI named his first solo CD “Blues For Christopher” in honor of his son. The album showcases MESI’S versatility and mastery of the classic styles of American electric music. From a Link Wray reverb twang to spicy pedal-steel guitar, and blues solo’s that roar and wail, MESI plays with an inventiveness and tone that few in the region can match. Mesi’s second CD, “Shut Up And Play” is composed entirely of instrumentals. His third CD, “Blues, Cars, and Electric Guitars”, won the Cascade Blues Association (CBA) Best Northwest Album of the Year award in 2001.
Watching other guitarists watch MESI is a favorite pastime in Portland bars. When MESI plays, other guitarists’ jaws drop at the melodic adventurousness of his soloing. As a measure of this respect, MESI was named to the CBA’s Blues Hall Of Fame in 1995.
Jim has won many other awards including all five “Best Guitarist” awards from Fresh Weekly Music Magazine every year they had the awards, (Robert Cray was runner-up), best musical act from Two Louie’s Magazine, received several “Muddy Awards” from the Cascade Blues Association for: LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT in 2000, best band in 1992, best guitarist nine times, inducted into the hall of fame in 1995, and two “Muddy Awards” in 2001 for “Best Northwest Album of the Year” and “Best Performance of the Year” (at the 2001 Portland Waterfront Blues Festival). In 2007 he was inducted into the Oregon Music Hall of Fame. He has received consistently enthusiastic reviews from many major newspapers and has been featured in Rolling Stone and Sunset Magazine.
In January of 2004, MESI starred in the documentary film “The Losers Club” along with Steve Bradley. Filmed and directed by Pierre Ouellette, the movie premiered at The Mission Theatre in Portlandto a packed house for both showings. The movie has since been shown several times on PBS and still plays from time to time in other Portland theatres. The movie highlights the careers of both MESI and Bradley and is a must see for every musician out there playing night after night in the professional circuit.
In 2010 Jim and his early band mates were featured in the Robert Leitch documentary, PORTLAND MOJO, a film about the history of the Portland blues scene.
JIM has performed with many internationally known artists, including B.B. King, Les Paul, Mary Wells, Roy Orbison, Bo Diddley, Dick Dale, Chuck Berry, Albert Collins, Big Walter Horton, Big Mama Thornton, Johnny Otis, Buddy Guy, Junior wells, Robert Cray, Albert Collins, Peewee Crayton and John Hammond, to name a few.
One review summed it up well: “Guitar monster JIM MESI is one of the few players who gives the impression that every possible sound and solo is at his fingertips… you will not only dance the night away but also witness a graduate-level seminar in ‘riffology’.” His top-notch experience, uncanny musicianship, and solid professionalism have resulted in one of the most sought after, frequently booked, and highly regarded bands around.
The BAND features Ed Neumann on keyboards and vocals, Scott White on bass and vocals and Johnny Moore on drums and vocals. Playing an ever-changing, eclectic, and crowd-pleasing blend of musical styles, THE JIM MESI BAND tours constantly, playing clubs, concerts and festivals all over the West Coast, Hawaii and beyond. The band’s summer European tours have included dates in Iceland, England, Scotland, Holland, Germany, Belgium, Norway, Denmark, Bosnia, Croatia and Macedonia.