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Article written by Laurie Morrisey
How many young blues musicians do you know who have a room named after them in one of the famous McMenamins hotels? The Jake Blair Band room at Hotel Oregon is the one I’m referring to. The hotel is where Jake Blair and Matt Seymour launched their band in 2000—when Jake was 13 and Matt was 12. Jake had started performing professionally the year before in 1999.
2001 was a busy year for The Jake Blair Band. In July they played the Waterfront Blues Festival. Later that year, they won the CBA Muddy Award for Best New Act. They returned to play the festival two years later, in 2003.
In the beginning, the band was comprised of Jake and Matt. Matt was the original bass player. “We advertised ourselves as the ‘boys of blues’. Now, Matt lives in Montana and is still playing bass. The last project I heard of him working on was with the band Voodoun Moi.”
With the current configuration of the band, Jake Blair plays guitar and sings lead vocals—“Occasionally I play harmonica,” he said. “I play with several different variations of bass players and drummers, but the people I most often play with are Dan Seymour on bass and backup vocals and Denny Ayres on drums and vocals. Occasionally I’ll use John Pounds on bass, Nathan Olsen on keyboard and Larry London drums.”
Denny Ayres joined the band about six years ago. Before that, he was playing with the Gary Burford Band.
Dan Seymour is the veteran musician. He began playing tenor sax professionally in the mid-'50s, first as a member of The Delgatos and went on to help form the group The Sensations. These were two prominent northwest groups during that time. Dan started playing bass in the early '60s in Riverside, California. For almost five years he played at the White Sands with Dean Moody, Mitch Jaber and Chet Cook, in a group called the Sonic Kow. Later, this band would be called the Sonics and then Pepper Tree. Dan managed The Jake Blair Band when it was first formed; he later began playing bass in the band.
Jake’s training combines formal and self-taught training. “I took some guitar lessons when I was younger. When I was 15 Garry Mezziere gave me a few lessons. I learned a lot mainly from playing music with other people and listening to my favorite songs over and over until I could figure out how to play them,” he said.
“I have always wanted to be a professional musician. I would like to be a national touring act, promoting original songs and getting on heavy rotation on radio stations. Right now I keep busy with working a day job, writing music, booking and promoting my band, and raising my 4 year old son.”
When asked about musical influences, Jake said, “There have been a very wide variety of musicians and bands—most expected would be Stevie Ray Vaughan, Jimi Hendrix, Albert Collins, etc. I am also heavily influenced by Joe Satriani, System of a Down, Rage Against the Machine, Soundgarden and many, many others.”
In describing his music he says, “There are many different styles played during a performance, including blues, rock, funk, and surf and psychedelic. I would describe my music as powerful, guitar-heavy blues/rock that’s original and from the heart.
Although Jake doesn’t have any CD’s out, he says he has some tracks he has recorded at home which are posted on YouTube to give people something to listen to. “I burn some CD’s of my self recorded tracks to have something fans can take home from a show for now. A fully produced studio EP is in the works and I’m hoping to have the recording done within the next two months; from there I will do all I can to get airplay. I plan on writing music and recording CD’s for the rest of my life. My song I want it back, which I recorded at home, was played on the KINK Sunday Night Blues Room last month—that was very exciting for me.
Jake has opened for acts such as Joe Bonamassa, Curtis Salgado, Linda Hornbuckle, Patrick Lamb and Jefferson Starship. He’s also played with David Vest, Robbie Laws, Anson Funderburgh, Garry Mezziere, Ellen Whyte, Jesse Samsel, Gary Burford, Ty Curtis, Ben Rice, and many other very talented musicians.
On a personal note, Jake is a native Oregonian, born and raised in Lebanon, Oregon. He currently lives in McMinnville where you can stop in at the Third Street Pizza Company and get a Jake Blair Sandwich--oven-roasted turkey, pesto, provolone and the “usual stuff”.
To get more information about The Jake Blair Band—current gig schedule, pics, videos and contact info—visit www.jakeblairband.com. There is also a page on Facebook--www.facebook.com/thejakeblairband.
In closing, Jake said, “Playing music makes me very happy. I want a lot of people to enjoy my music and I have very high hopes for my future!”