Recently, we went to see the band, the Mambo Jazz Kings and had the opportunity to interview Art Lopez with this dynamic band.
Island Guide: Is there a story behind the name of your band? It is rather unique.
Art: No story, I just wanted to choose a name that no one would forget. ‘Mambo Jazz Kings’ sounded cool.
Island Guide: Who is in the band and what do they play or do? How many members are there total?
Art: We have a big band! Band members are vocalist: Ray Cole Brown, Frankie Edwards, and Donny Buggs. Our horn section is Fred Linton (Tenor Saxophone), Brad Nieme (Trumpet/Flugel Horn), Craig Zlatnik (Trombone), and Tony Richardson (Alto Saxophone). The Rhythm section is myself, Art Lopez (Rhythm Guitar), Albert Moguel (Lead Guitar), Luis Marian (Drums), and Lloyd Wade (Latin Percussion). Then there’s Andy Estrada (Bass Guitar) and Ron Davis (Keyboards).
We also have Sound Technicians Steve Williams, DJ Services, and Pam Cortez; Road Manager John Thompson; and Stage Technician Jason Gorham.
Island Guide: Wow, that is a lot! No wonder your sound is so great and unique. Describe your style of music, your sound, for someone who has never heard you.
From their bio: Mambo Jazz Kings (MJK) are a high-energy dance band that can lay down every funky beat from Earth Wind and Fire to Beyoncé’. The band’s resume of music also includes the big band sounds of Frank Sinatra, Bobby Darin, and Glen Miller.
The Mambo Jazz Kings have been entertaining audiences both young and old from stages of concerts, festivals, and nightclubs. Twelve (12) fantastic guys and one exciting lady take the stage every night. The band has an outstanding rhythm section, a powerful horn ensemble, and three vocalists that will keep you moving until the very end!
Island Guide: What was your inspiration(s) for your unique sound?
Art: I’d say our main inspirations are Tower of Power, Earth Wind and Fire, Aretha Franklin, and the Temptations. We love the sound and overall feel of that music.
Island Guide: Describe a live show for someone who hasn’t had the honor of seeing you guys.
From their bio: The name, Mambo Jazz Kings, makes you wonder what to expect, but the performance leaves no doubt! ‘Have Soul Will Travel’ is our motto. The founder and leader of this entertainment package is Art Lopez. He has put together a great group of musicians, each having their own style and appeal. When these individuals take the stage together, though, the chemistry is magic, and you can be assured it will be hard to keep your seat.
Island Guide: Where is everyone from?
Art: Galveston/Houston and the surrounding areas. We are locals to this area. It has had our hearts for a long time.
Island Guide: How did you guys all meet? There are a lot of members so there must be several cool connections.
Art: We met throughout the music circuit. Many musicians often provide me their resumes as we meet at various performances. That is how we met and formed our current line up.
Island Guide: How long have you been together as a band?
Art: Wow, this dates me! We’ve been together for 31 years. The original band formed in 1985.
Island Guide: How did everyone get started in music? And who were your influences, when, where, ages, etc…
Art: All of our musicians and singers are educated musicians. They started in school and continued learning music even though most were different styles and genres of music. We all stem from various types of Jazz, R&B, Soul/Funk, and the Big Band Era. We like to joke that it is in our blood.
Island Guide: Do you play originals and/or cover tunes? Both?
Art: No, we only play cover tunes. This band entertains as a hobby. We have promotional CD’s that we give away as samples of the cover music that we play.
Island Guide: How long have you been playing in Galveston?
Art: Since the beginning: 1985. The Mambo Jazz Kings are Galveston home-grown and well respected.
Island Guide: What do Galveston and your Galveston fans mean to you?
Art: Our fans on the Island are the love of our life. We always have a energetic and loyal crowd. We cherish our Galveston fans.
Island Guide: Where else do you play? Areas, tour any? Festivals?
Art: We play mostly in Galveston and Harris County at club performances, festivals, and concerts, plus, we play several Mardi Gras Festival concerts in La Porte and Port Arthur, which are always fun.
Island Guide: Is there anywhere that you simply love to perform or that stand out that you have played?
Art: The Annual Galveston Mardi Gras concert is always our favorite. The crowd is amazing, and they really love our sound.
Island Guide: Was there a point in your life where you decided that playing music was going to be your career? Tell me the story of how that decision came about.
Art: Growing up in the 60’s in my Galveston neighborhood, (Stephen F. Austin School District), this was a time of neighborhood musicians. All the kids played music, and our elders guided us and coached us to continue our musical venture. It was in 1967 while attending Stephen F. Austin Jr. High School that I started my first band, MG & the Soul Seven. After that, I never looked back, and I have been playing music ever since.
Island Guide: What has been the biggest challenge as a band to overcome?
Art: Personnel turnover is always a challenge. People come and go.
Island Guide: What advice would you offer people who are just starting out, either individually or as a band?
Art: Take the right approach; learn all you can in school (proper music instruction) and take piano lessons. This is the root of all music.
Island Guide: If you could pick one band to see live, living or dead, who would it be?
Art: Tower of Power!
Island Guide: What was the first album you remember purchasing?
Art: (laughs) “Meet the Beatles,” (1965) and “Bump City” by Tower of Power (1969).
Island Guide: What is the ultimate direction for the band for the future?
Art: That’s simple, to keep entertaining at our live performances, locally, nationally and if possible, internationally.
Island Guide: Anything else you would like people to know about your band?
Art: Just remember our slogan, “Have Soul-Will Travel.”
Island Guide: Any big announcements for the fall and 2017 – like tours, new music, etc?
Art: We are going on a cruise! Monday-Saturday, November 13th-18th, 2017, on Carnival Cruise Lines Liberty, we will be playing for the “Tejano, Brown-Eyed Soul Musical Cruise.” The cruise leaves Galveston to Cozumel, Progresso, and the Mexican Riviera. Now this will be fun!
Island Guide: Anyone you want to thank or acknowledge?
Art: We’d like to thank Mike Mejia of the “Outcast,” Danny Smith of “The Evertones,” Emilio Castillo of “Tower of Power,” all of my family, and of course, my wife Monica, who has been so supportive in my music endeavor since we met.
Island Guide: How can people access your calendar and music?
Art: You can find us, Mambo Jazz Kings, at mambojazzkingslive.com; and on Facebook at facebook.com/mjkings.
Island Guide: Any last words?
Art: I just want to thank all of our family, friends, and fans for so much ‘LUV’ since 1985. Even though we are now a little older, with a little less on top, and a little more around the middle, we can still get down and jam with the best. I can’t wait to see you all at our shows!
The Mambo Jazz Kings upcoming shows are:
- Saturday, December 10th, 9pm-1am, Roger’s Bar & Grill, 1271 FM 518 East (Deke Slayton Hwy), League City
- Saturday, December 17th, 9:30pm-1am, Bubba’s at The Causeway, Tiki Island/Galveston
- Friday, December 30th, 9pm-1am, Jackie’s Brick House, 1053 FM-2094 E, Clear Lake Shores
- Saturday, January 7th, 2017, 9pm-1am, Roger’s Bar & Grill, 1271 FM 518 East (Deke Slayton Hwy), League City
- Saturday, January 14th, 2017, 9:30-1am, Bubba’s at The Causeway, Tiki Island/Galveston
- Saturday, January 21st, 2017, 8pm-12am, Annual Commodore’s Ball, Houston Yacht Club, 3620 Miramar Dr, La Porte
- Saturday, February 4th, 2017, 9pm-1am, Jackie’s Brick House, 1053 FM-2094 E, Clear Lake Shores
- Friday, February 10th, 2017, 9:30pm-1:30am, B. Jiggers Holiday Inn, Galveston, 49th and Seawall Blvd.
- Saturday, February 11th, 2017, 6:30pm (DJ) and 7-11:30pm (full band), The Connections of the Heart Gala, Island Carnival, located at Moody Gardens, 1 Hope Blvd., Galveston, Floral Ballroom.
- Friday, February 17th, 2017, 8pm-12am, The Annual Krewe of Momus Mardi Gras 2017, President’s Party, located at the Davidson Ballroom, at the Historic Tremont House, 2300 Mechanic St., Galveston
- Saturday, February 18th, 2017, 5-9pm, Mardi Gras on Main 2017 Celebration in La Porte, located 400 W. Main St., La Porte
- Saturday, February 25th, 2017, Time TBD, Galveston Mardi Gras 2017 Concert Main Stage, located 2300 Strand, Galveston
Make sure you come early and grab a seat; this band often plays to standing room only crowds!