All Aboard the Blues Train
If you’re a blues fan in Boise, you’ve probably heard Smooth Avenue—the six-piece blues band fronted by vocalist James ‘JT’ Tyler.
“People sometimes ask where the name Smooth Avenue comes from,” says Tyler. “A former band member commented that I have a smooth voice but it should have a few more ‘ooooo’s in the name. ‘Avenue’ comes from the idea that we take our listeners on a musical journey.”
Smooth Avenue, made up of a guitar, bass, drums, keyboard, saxophone, and vocals, are regulars at the Sapphire Room and the Sandbar Patio Bar & Grill in Boise, as well as venues in the Eagle area.
“We really believe in providing tasteful and soulful music for our listeners,” says Tyler, who cites BB King, Ike and Tina Turner, Muddy Waters, Luther Vandross and others as influences.
Tyler started out playing smooth jazz and eventually made the transition to R&B and blues.
“I grew up with the blues,” he says. “Some of the early blues greats used to play at a club near me and every weekend I was exposed to some form of soul.”
Smooth Avenue has been performing together for just five years, but the members are seasoned musicians. Tyler has been playing on and off for 20 years and several band members have played the circuits in Las Vegas, Reno, New York, and with iconic blues man Bo Diddley.
In addition to venues like the Sapphire Room, Smooth Avenue plays weddings (and can take on emcee and master of ceremony duties), holiday parties and more.
“We play music with feeling,” Tyler says. “Whether it’s a happy song or a love song or a sad song, you really want people to feel the music, but also make it fun.”
Smooth Avenue is a member band of the Boise Blues Society, and Tyler himself is a member of the Board of Directors.
“We promote blues as a unique musical form of America and educate people about the influence blues music has had on modern music,” he says. “If we want to continue this art form we have to bring in and cultivate new people.”