Benny Yee


Benny's Stage Gear

The Invisible two-tier keyboard stand holds on the top a Hammond XK-2 with the expression pedal and sustain pedal hooked up with a midi cable out into a Korg X2. The XK-2 is connected to a Leslie Combo Pre amp that is connected to a Mackie VLZ 1202 and uses a Alesis Midiverb 4 Effects Processor and then the aux monitor send to a Leslie Model 145 . The X2 is connected to the Mackie VLZ-1202 and a Hafler P3000 Power Amp, and then into a JBL EON15 floor monitor. Typically the Sound Reinforcement mikes the Leslie with two mikes hi and low and one direct line from the Mackie main out. Benny Yee now is an artist endorser of the Hammond XK-2 and the Motion Sound Pro3-T and Low Pro.


Benny Yee has played professionally for over 30 years. He plays Rock, R B, Blues and Jazz Piano and Hammond Organ along with Synthesizer .You can find him playing on "Layaway" by Robert Lucas on AudioQuest Records. For more than 10 years he has been playing with Coco Montoya on the Road and 3 CD's with Blind Pig Records and currently Alligator Records, "Suspicion" and the  2002 release, "Can't Look Back", which debuted on the Billboard Blues Chart at #2.

Newest Recording with Janiva Magness due out June 10, 2008 , "That's What Love Will Do" on Alligator Records




CoCo Montoya


Alligator Records

C oco Montoya recently jumped ship from Blind Pig records to Chicago-based Alligator records, and I'm quite sure the label is proud to have this left-handed virtuoso. Montoya wastes no time getting down and dirty. From the funky swamp boogie of the "Casting My Spell", to the biting tone of "Fool", Montoya shows off the chops that have earned him a reputation as a now and future guitar legend. Surrounding yourself with some of the best players in the business is always helpful. The main ingredient is some tasty keyboard work by longtime bandmate Benny Yee. Seeing these guys play live together is always a treat. They feed off each other's energy and the energy of the crowd, taking the performance to a whole new plateau. Coco's guitar work is nothing short of amazing on this disc. Case in point, track number 5, "Don't Take It Personally", a hard rocking, foot stomper, is sure to be a crowd pleaser. One will notice on this release that Montoya spices up the mix with lots of horns, and they fit in nicely. "I Need Your Love In My Life" and "What I Know Now", proves you can mix Chicago guitar blues with Memphis style horns. Mr. Montoya is generally a rocking bluesman, but slows things down nicely on "Good Days, Bad Days", however, my favorite track is the emotion filled ballad, "Nothing but Love". "Nothing But Love" is dedicated to several people, but of these individuals, the strongest message is sent out to the late great Albert Collins. Collins was the man who motivated the drummer, Coco Montoya, to pick up the guitar. I can only imagine being given exclusive guitar lessons from a guy like Albert Collins. Listen closely to "Nothing But Love", and you will understand that Collins and Montoya were more than bandmates and friends. Albert seems to serve as a musical father and spiritual influence that will walk with Coco for the rest of his days. In closing, I will say that I love the disc, but the neighbors might not, hence the constant requests to "turn it down". I highly recommend picking up this disc for your collection and by all means come and check out Coco and his band live at Buddy Guys Legends, March 11Th, 2000.

Harvey McCarter


Live Review
Coco Montoya
Minnesota Music Café, St. Paul
March 4, 2000
Ray Stiles
Photography copyright © 2000 by Tom Asp, all rights reserved


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.

This review is copyright © 2000 by Ray Stiles, and
Blues On Stage, all rights reserved. Copy, duplication or download prohibited without written permission. For permission to use this review please send an E-mail to Ray Stiles.



Coco Montoya

At his recent show at Biscuits & Blues, Montoya was joined on stage by Benny Yee on keyboards, Steve Evans on bass and Randy Hayes on drums. The first set of an hour and a half was mostly devoted to blues with Montoya leading off with the hard-driving rockish blues tune "I Need Your Love In My Life." Then performing "You Didn,t Think About That." Montoya demonstrated his blistering guitar work. His years of performing with Albert Collins have honed his chops well as he exhibited on the tune "Get Your Business Straight." His vocals are warmly expressive. Keyboardist Benny Yee is absolutely amazing! He asserts his presence with soul in his playing and a smashing style that is breathtaking but all the while melodic. 

Montoya is one of those musicians who appreciates the audience and graciously spends time conversing with his fans (this evening he was especially grateful to the industry guests, Gavin Convention attendees and Monster Cable representative--Montoya is one of the Famous Monsters). This is definitely a band to catch, tight hard rocking blues that delivers!

by Dorothy Hill

Copyright Jazz Now, all rights reserved



Coco Montoya: Can't Look Back

By Michael Prager, Globe Staff, 07/12/2002

Coco Montoya has reserved a spot for his mentor and musical father, Albert Collins, on each of his five albums. In 1995, it was Collins's "Gotta Mind To Travel,'' and the result was one of its hottest tracks. On the new album "Can't Look Back,'' it happens again: Montoya blisters through Collins's "Same Old Thing,'' stretching out in a way he chooses not to with most of his own compositions. Though not as regularly, Montoya also likes to put some soul into his mix. This time, he takes a run through "Something About You,'' the Dozier/Holland/Dozier tune popularized by the Four Tops in 1965. Montoya wrote five songs for the new disc, as many as he has contributed to any of his albums. Taken together, these are strong though rarely startling. The ace of the quintet is "Back in a Cadillac,'' which showcases the musicianship of both Montoya and his longtime keyboardist, Benny Yee. It also shows off Montoya's voice and storytelling style, always sharp and dependable components of his kit. Montoya is a the House of Blues on Wednesday.

Boston Globe

Eli's Mile High Club

It was good while it lasted but unfortunately a lack of support combined with a series of unfortunate circumstances is forcing Eli's to close its doors as a blues club. But before they close the doors on May 20th with a big party, the club is presenting a few rare performances.

Coco Montoya was featured at a recent show with his contemporary blues-rock guitar style and passionate vocals. Joining him was Benny Yee who is a ferocious keyboard player and the best thing about this band. Steve Evans was rock steady on bass. They opened the show with "Talkin' Woman Blues" with Montoya's aggressive and soulful vocals and an intense solo by Yee on keyboards. Montoya's rendering of the Albert Collins tune, "Get Your Business Straight," was a highlight since Collins was his mentor during the time he was a drummer with Collins. Montoya and the band gave us a good blues-rocking ride this evening.

by Dorothy L. Hill  

Jazz Now Interctive May 2004 Vol 14 No. 1 - Table of Contents


Blueswax Rating:


Reader Rating:


Montoya, Coco

Can't Look Back

Hear It! Rate It. Rate It! Buy It!


His Strongest and Best Work To Date!, (08/14/02)

Can't Look Back, Coco Montoya's second release on the Alligator label, is packed with thirteen tracks that will satisfy those longtime Montoya fans and attract new listeners to his music. Performing on this CD with Coco are Chuck Kirkpatrick providing rhythm and slide guitar along with background vocals, Scott Kirkpatrick on drums and background vocals. Keyboard duties are shared between Benny Yee and Tommy Eyre, Steve Evans and Bob Glaub on bass, Randy Hayes and Tony Braunagle provide additional drum support, rounding out the group are Joe Sublett on tenor sax and Darrel Leonard on trumpet. Jim Gaines takes on the production duties and has another winner to add to his long list of accomplishments.

With that powerful line up of musicians Coco sets out on a powerful journey that stays at mountain top level throughout the CD. The opening track "Wish I Could Be That Strong" is filled with deep emotional expression, setting the pace for the remainder of the tracks. "Something About You," popularized by the Four Tops back in 1965, gives the CD a taste of soul and is one of the best tracks with Montoya lighting up the fret board part way through. Further into the CD "Can't See The Streets For My Tears" is a slow, powerful number telling the tale of losing a lover with great vocals and keyboards. Part way through the CD he pays tribute to one of his mentors, Albert Collins on the track, "Same Old Thing" with that Collins trademark guitar sound. A favorite of mine is "Back In A Cadillac," telling the story of being cast out for not having the money and other things only to come back stylin' in a Cadillac. It is a showcase of his guitar work and great keyboards from Benny Yee.

Can't Look Back is a strong compilation with five of the thirteen songs written by Coco. Many will say it is his strongest and best work to date. It is definitely worthy of award consideration in several categories. With strong guitar work, vocals and backing by a list of great musicians, it makes for a great listen as you roll on down the road. If you are like me you will have a difficult time taking it out of your CD player.

Chuck Rummel



















Coco Montoya
Minnesota Music Café, MN
June 19, 2003
by Rich Benson

Coco Montoya has played regularly at the Minnesota Music Café over the last several years. The last time out he was suffering from a cold and fever, yet he still put on a brilliant display of alternately scorching, driving blues guitar and slower, soulful playing. This Thursday night he was feeling in good health and his always-great blues guitar and strong vocals showed it.

Coco started things off with some rich, full expressive guitar riffs on "Think About That." His guitar work had a jazzy, sophisticated sound that was very pleasing to the ear. Coco brought it down for some slow, soulful picking. Then he took it right back up, his guitar wailing and howling with passion as he briefly held notes that rang out in between fast, repeating licks. All night Coco played a great mix of fast, driving blues with searing guitar playing and slow, subtle blues where he could really show what a talented blues player he really is. One of the latter was the powerful, dark blues of "I Can't See the Street for My Tears." This slow, soulful blues grinder had Coco playing strong, slow chord progressions as he sang in a great wailing, then mournful voice. Coco's passionate, atmospheric playing, along with his tight three piece backing band, transports you in time and space to a lonely walk on a dark, damp deserted street on a depressing night.

Coco likes to get funky on occasion, as he did on the hip blues of "Same Old Thing." This was hip, expressive, modern blues at its best yet with very deep roots. Benny Yee's solid electronic organ playing was showcased along with the bright, expressive guitar licks ringing out from Coco's guitar. Coco had his fast guitar licks ringing out and echoing in the room, one chord ringing into the next. Coco went back to searing guitar licks on the rolling blues of "Every Day and Every Night." His scorching, expressive licks rang out loudly into every corner of the room. Coco's brilliant guitar solo was matched by his strong, passionate husky vocals. All night Coco did a good job changing tempos and moods, from slow, passionate blues grinders to mid-tempo danceable blues to energetic driving blues that drove the dancers in the crowd ever faster with enthusiasm.

On "Good Days" Coco had his guitar wailing and moaning with passion, shaking his guitar and pulling and pushing the strings to the limit for vibrato. On the funky blues of "Get Your Business Straight" he played buzzing guitar riffs rich with reverb while Benny Yee wowed the crowd with his energetic, expressive electronic organ sound. Coco also showcased his vocals here. He sang with his smooth, warm tenor and at other times his vocals rasped with raw passion. His passion continued in his smoking, penetrating guitar solo. During the second set Coco gave the crowd the fast rolling blues love song "I Need Your Love in My Life." Once again his powerful guitar carried the passion and energy of the song to the crowd. Coco's clear tenor voice and solid vocal harmonies on the refrain made for a rich, textured song that moved the crowd.

A highlight of the show was Coco's performance of "If You Love Me Like You Say." His guitar solo was a tour de force, showing off nearly everything that he can do from fast and driving to slow and soulful to simple strumming as he let Benny Yee shine on organ. Coco has to be one of the top blues guitarists in the world by anyone's estimation. His great performance at the Minnesota Music Café only reinforces that view. Be sure to catch him the next time he stops by to wow the Twin Cities with the power and the passion of his brilliant blues guitar.

"This review is copyright © 2003 by Rich Benson, and Blues On Stage at:, all rights reserved. Copy, duplication or download prohibited without permission."

Copyright reuse notice: If you would like to reprint or use this review please include the above copyright notice, contained within the quotation marks, PLUS this statement: "Used with permission." Then send an email to Ray at: indicating how you are using the review or the website page address it will be appearing on. Thanks


Backstage Pass

Janiva Magness
BB’s Jazz Blues and Soups, St. Louis,
July 9, 2005

No matter where music goes, the blues will never die, and yet there are a select few both brave enough and talented enough to carry the torch into the new millennium. The Janiva Magness Band is carrying this torch. Riding the headwinds of her 2004 release Bury Him at the Crossroads, two-time W.C. Handy Award nominee Janiva Magness (pronounced JAN-ihv-uh) brought a little old-school fire to stoke a balmy St. Louis Saturday evening.

Janiva possesses an unmistakable comprehension of the R&B aesthetic, which she undoubtedly picked up from her childhood in Detroit. With a style compared to the likes of Etta James, Billy Holiday, and Koko Taylor, Magness carries herself with a rock star’s grit and intensity, while also encapsulating the essences of delta blues and classic jazz singing. Her voice pours out with melodic assertiveness, a simultaneously raspy and edgy timbre that articulates a woman filled with the blues and the tenacity to shout it from the rooftops. Yet with the feisty attitude and soulful vocals, the Magness band offers more than good ol’ blues for the good ol’ boys.

Frank but graceful, Magness carried herself with a no-nonsense attitude, both on and off the stage. Her command of the audience and of the band was notable for this self-described “greasy granny.” At no point did the crowd stop moving to the rhythm, from soulful, traditional songs like “Better off With the Blues” to playful tunes like “Eat the Lunch You Brought” (off the Crossroads disc). And though the spotlight was all hers, she gave her band plenty of chances to shine, even staying off stage for the first few songs of each set to make sure you knew it wasn’t just her feeling the blues. Particular attention was paid to keyboardist Benny Yee, with the look of Pat Morita and the chops of Jimmy Smith.

A brief conversation with Magness between sets revealed a woman who knew how to handle her business, even if life occasionally dealt her a bad hand. Mention of St. Louis draws memories of her relatives, a few of which are buried here. Magness is an old soul in a still-sexy-in-her-40s body, and she flaunts it in a black cocktail dress and leopard print heels. No diva ensemble would be complete without a handheld fan, which she used to swat air at herself in rhythm with the band. While she sometimes shot serious, businesslike glances at her band members, she was always ready with a wry smile and a well-placed heel stomp to get you back in the groove.

For an authentic, almost vintage taste of the blues, the Janiva Magness band is where it’s at. | Jon Rayfield

Michael Kinsman reporting on Pacific Cruise Day 6  Pacific Legendary Rhythm & Blues Cruise 2007

Janiva Magness is clearly staking her territory out as the blues chanteuse of the 21st Century. On a ship, with lightning fast guitar players, she's not afraid to slow down the tempo and let her emotions ripple through the audience. Song such as Ike & Tina's "I Idolize Your" and Delbert McClinton-Gary Nicholson"s "You Were Never MIne" allow her latitude to reach emotional levels that most other artists rarely acknowledge. She's found a marvelous musical partner in Hammond B-3 player Benny Yee who has the good sense to understand the weight of the music at hand and play accordingly. At times, these songs seem like therapy for Janiva, but that's merely keeping in line with blues tradition. It's all about the feeling isn't it?

Contemporary Blues Female Artist of the Year In Concert

Concert Review by: Joe Montague

Venue: Red Onion ( Calgary, Alberta, Canada )

October 21, 2006 -

Magness extends that quest for authenticity to the choice of musicians that she works with. On her CD the piano and Hammond B3 chops were performed by Richard Bell. At the concert that I attended, Benny Yeewas the man caressing the keys. Both men are outstanding musicians and create passionate grooves
Backed by a scintillating performance from her rhythm section the Los Angeles native met and exceeded the expectations of an audience that had lined up two hours prior to the concert to ensure a good seat. The performance was virtually sold out by the time the doors opened.

Both sets opened with guitarist Matthew Stubbs, former Memphian Gary Davenport (bass), Californian Bryan Head on drums and the incomparable Benny Yee on keys providing an instrumental introduction to the Blues diva. The band alone was worth the price of admission and Magness pushed the performance over the top.

“Workin’ On Me Baby” recalls Magness’ days growing up in Detroit soaking up the vibes of Motown’s greatest artists in the sixties. The singer’s rich alto vocalize on “I’m Just A Prisoner” was nicely comped by Yee working his magic on the B-3 Hammond organ. The song is the number one track from her Northern Blues CD Do I Move You and easily demonstrates why the blues community selected Magness as this year’s diva over such icons as Marcia Ball.

As the singer lamented the words to the ballad “You Were Never Mine” there was a hint of past flirtation with personal heartbreak. Tear soaked notes pulled at your heartstrings as the lights dimmed and the soulful brunette cooed the lyric.

Fingering his lower fretboard Stubb’s rich blues vocabulary and clever chord changes excited concert goers from the first note till the last. Yee was spectacular doing double duty on both the electric keys and organ.


Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Blues road warrior gives all,

Janiva Magness was tired, frazzled from a tour schedule that had her hopscotching all over the state during her recent swing through Florida. While she may be in need of some (well-deserved) time off, she never half-assed her performance on Friday at The Back Room in Boca. At the start of the show, the vocalist apologized if her pipes were rustier than the way fans may have remembered from other gigs (including the previous weekend's appearance at the NSU Blues Fest), but I didn't detect too much degrading of her powerful instrument till I tried to talk to her after the show and she could barely whisper. And it seemed like she gave her usual all-she's-got on-stage, as she belted out blues and soul and danced and shimmied along with her excellent band. This is a woman who struggled and scrapped to get where she is today (she copped back-to-back Blues Music Awards for Contemporary Blues Female Artist of the Year in 2006 and 2007), and she's well aware that she did it one audience at a time.

Guitarist Zack Zunis proved a great foil for Magness, his tortured leads recalling West Side Chicago touchstones such as Otis Rush (a great influence on Magness) as well as a host of Texas string-benders, and he brought plenty of emotion and showmanship to his solos without ever sounding overindulgent. But for me, keyboardist Benny Yee stole the show, somehow pulling the sound of a 500-pound Hammond B3 out of a slender electric piano and working all kinds of grooves and atmosphere with his busy hands.

For her part, Magness passionately revisited tunes from her terrific new album, What Love Will Do (her debut for the Alligator label), and kicked some serious ass on Tina Turner's self-empowerment anthem "Get It, Get It," as well as Annie Lennox's "Bitter Pill" and the über-funky "That's What Love Will Make You Do." The singer must have been grateful when she spotted longtime friend and current Singer Island resident Terry Hanck in the audience, handing over the bandstand (and her band) to the honky-tonk sax master who lit it up with his Junior Walker-inspired wailing and soulful vocals and providing Magness a much-needed breather. All in all, a tremendous night.

Posted by Bob Weinberg at 9:13 AM


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Entering 2010 on my own, on to new adventures. Thanks to Janiva Magness for 5 great years of work.

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