Janiva Magness, Eden Brent Headline Flagstaff Blues and Brews Festival

Categories: Blues

Julia Bailey
Eden Brent is performing at the Flagstaff Blues and Brews festival.

Those looking to get out of the Phoenix heat can find no better reason than the Flagstaff Blues and Brews festival on Saturday, June 21.

The event goes from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. at the Continental Driving Range.

Eden "Little Boogalo" Brent is a good place to start. Her Mississippi piano can bring an audience to life with a mix of blues, soul, jazz and pop. Her three-piece band includes Bobby Walker on drums and David Barard on bass.

Brent's nickname comes from her mentor. Brent had the good fortune to be mentored by Boogaloo Ames, a blues icon in Detroit and later in Mississippi. In 1999, PBS made a documentary about the pair called Boogaloo & Eden: Sustaining the Sound.

Brent lives in Greenville, Miss., about 300 miles down stream from Louisiana, or as she said: "About a four-day float."

Keep in mind, Brent started as a fan of Ames before she asked him to mentor her when she was about 18 and he was 68.

"I went from being a fan, to his No. 1 groupie, to playing with him. I was still in college. During my breaks, we would start playing together," she said. "He would play the piano and I would sing."

It was an odd couple. In her words, she was a white woman of privilege working with an older black man in the deep South.

"He taught me how to be entertaining," Brent said. "He taught me to look for what kind of songs crowds wanted. He taught me how to play the piano, and I encouraged him to sing. We would sing duets, and he had a delightful voice."

Brent said asking her what she liked best about Ames is like asking somebody what they liked best about Santa Claus.

"When he played the piano, he would be fluid with his right hand, but he would keep the groove with his left hand. His left hand was like a bass," she said.

Brent said Ames was one of the few solo performers who would make people want to get up and dance. That's how he earned his nickname "Boogaloo."

"Ames had charisma and charm. I liked him as much as a person as a musician," she said.

They performed together for about 10 years before he passed on in 2002.

"In 1986, I had my first paying gig because he was gone for the summer," she said. "I took his regular engagements for half the pay."

When Ames returned, they started performing together regularly.

Apparently Brent learned well -- in 2010, she won the Blues Music Awards' Pinetop Perkins Piano Player of the Year Award -- the most prestigious international blues piano player award.

"It was the best honor I ever had, but I felt like I was holding it for Boogaloo," she said.

Brent performed at an amphitheater in Flagstaff in 2006 and the crowd went wild when she played her own rendition of "Route 66." She also sold out her CDs during that gig.

"I'm tickled to return to Flagstaff because it should be just wonderful," she said.

She has a new CD for sale -- Jigsaw Heart, which she released in May. Brent will perform at 4 p.m.

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