Coco Montoya had the good fortune of having several key events help shape his musical career. As a teenager growing up in California during the 1960’s Coco saw an Albert King performance that gave him a completely new perspective on what guitar playing was all about. The second event came in 1972 when Albert Collins, after hearing Montoya play the drums, called him in need of a drummer. Coco ended up playing with Albert Collins for the next five years. He found in Collins a mentor and father figure who taught him how to play the guitar. Collins, the Master of the Telecaster, told Montoya, when teaching him guitar, "Don’t think about it, just feel it." Montoya has taken that advise to heart and readily displays this passionate feeling approach in his guitar playing.
The third major turning point came in 1980 when John Mayall gave Montoya a call looking for a new guitar player for his Bluesbreakers. Following in the footsteps of Eric Clapton, Peter Green and Mick Taylor, all former guitar players for Mayall, was not an easy task, but Montoya was determined to prove himself. This stint lasted ten years and was the proving ground where Montoya honed his guitar skills and forged his own brand of guitar fire power.
In 1993, after going solo, Montoya established a reputation as one of the strongest performers on the blues circuit, tearing up clubs and knocking out festival audiences around the country with his spectacular shows. Montoya’s first solo album, "Gotta Mind To Travel" (1995) was one of the best blues albums of the year. In 1996 he won the W.C. Handy Award for Best New Blues Artist and followed that up with his 1996 release, "Think I’d Know Better" and 1997’s, "Just Let Go" also on Blind Pig. His newest release is the 2000 Alligator, "Suspicion."
Montoya’s guitar playing has been described as, "scorching," "ferocious," "scalding hot," "expressive," "chops to burn," "blistering blues," "steely guitar licks"…well you get the idea. His recent show at the Minnesota Music Café was no exception. In fact, this show was the other side of the coin from his rather flat performance at Famous Dave’s two years ago when local guitarist Jimi Smith’s opening act far upstaged the star.
Montoya’s 4-piece band is a tight knit group of players who complement each other’s playing. Coco has no problem stepping back and letting his super keyboard player, Benny Yee, take the spotlight on occasion. The house was packed and the music a little too loud in the main room at first. Some of the people in the bar section of the club had trouble with the sound and sight lines but the majority in attendance were treated to a very powerful performance as Montoya, dressed all in black with his light blue guitar and red-tipped boots quickly took command of the room. At times it seemed his guitar was actually doing the talking and singing for him. His first set lasted almost 90 minutes and he kicked off the second set with his foot tapping rocker, "Get Your Ass In Gear." He even pulled out his slide and after he broke one of his strings, things started to get a little loose as he proclaimed, "I’m just going to play the blues, is that all right with you?" Well, it was all right as Montoya, who was ON for tonight’s show, smoked the house.
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