The Love Light Orchestra

The Love Light Orchestra

The Memphis sound of the 1950’s is proudly celebrated by The Love Light Orchestra, a group fronted by acclaimed vocalist John Németh, who is backed by a 9-piece band of the most seasoned musicians from the Home of the Blues. Guitarist Joe Restivo and arranger/ trumpeter Marc Franklin drew inspiration for the group’s name from Bobby “Blue” Bland’s 1961 hit ‘Turn On Your Love Light,’ and the concept from the orchestral sound of mid-century big band blues found on the singles of Bobby “Blue” Bland, B.B. King, and “Junior” Parker. “Leave The Light On,” the debut studio album from the ensemble, takes their devotion to the sound to the next level on a sophisticated recording of nine original songs and one cover written in tribute to the era of crooners, shouters, and entertainers, who ruled Beale Street in the days before rock ‘n’ roll and soul.

The opening track, ‘Time Is Fading Fast,’ demonstrates the full power of the orchestra on a “Big Joe” Turner style swinger. Restivo’s guitars skills are featured on the dynamic ‘Come On Moon’ and the horns drive the riffing rhumba ‘Give Me A Break.’ Drummer Earl Lowe delivers a snappy boogaloo beat during ‘I Must Confess,’ while leading us through a call and response dance party. The album’s lone cover ‘3 O’clock Blues,” which became B.B. King’s first hit as well as one of the top-selling r&b records of 1952, is placed in the middle of the playlist as testimonial to The King of the Blues. The clever arrangement from Franklin reimagines the twelve-bar classic as an expectant tango that allows Nemeth to push the emotional parameters to new levels. He really croons on the swaying 6/8 bar ‘After All,’ a genuine throwback ballroom ballad full of schmaltz and bravado.

Nemeth borrows from significant standards to craft his own shuffling blues ‘Tricklin’ Down,’ but the result gives the horns a familiar palette to shine in. The bouncing ‘Open Book’ has a doo-wop vibe and could have been found in the early Sam Cooke catalog. The boogie-woogie piano from Gerald Stephens leads us into the title track ‘Leave The Light On’ that revs up to a brisk flat tire shuffle with hot horns jabs, while Nemeth pontificates on several blues euphemisms. The rousing full-force swinger, ‘Follow The Queen,’ delivers advice to the lovelorn and features sizzling yakety sax and soaring brass closing the set with gusto.

The Love Light Orchestra’s second full-length effort and its theme of love and perseverance is a brilliant showcase for some of the finest musical creators to be found anywhere, proving why they are regarded as the most in demand players in Memphis. As the rest of the world discovers this supergroup, the next step will be taking the big band ensemble on the road for everyone to experience the amazing sound from the Home of the Blues and the Birthplace of Rock & Roll.

Rick J Bowen


Though born from the desire to rekindle enthusiasm for the grand, orchestral sound of mid-20th century blues, Love Light Orchestra is much more than a nostalgia act. Formed in 2016 as a nod to the sound and visual flair prevalent early in careers of beloved Memphis stalwarts B.B. King and Bobby Bland, the Love Light Orchestra is as much a manifestation of the current moment as it is a throwback to a bygone era of nightclubs packed to the brim with partygoers eager to take in an evening of down-home musicality with a touch of class.

Completion of Leave the Light On, the group’s studio debut, reflects three-years of sheer determination to coordinate schedules of a group consisting of Memphis’ most in-demand artists, in addition to navigating the unforeseen impact of a global health crisis on the entire music industry. Though the maturity and dexterity of the orchestra members shone loud and clear on the group’s first release, the sophomore effort refines and elevates the group’s presentation, employing a clarity and quality complementary to the veteran musicianship within Love Light’s ranks. Tossing the songbook aside in favor of mostly original tunes, Love Light proves their staying power and reinforces an outlook pointed toward the future while honoring the context of their collective musical past.

The orchestra’s eponymous release captured the high energy and rollicking fanfare of a one-night musical affair in Midtown Memphis club Bar DKDC. Featuring works from a songbook of covers steeped in Bluff City tradition, the album culminates in Nemeth’s chilling evocation of Al Green’s ubiquitous romance anthem, “Love & Happiness.”


  • John Németh – 2-time Blues Music Award winner and 23-time nominee; beloved soul blues vocalist, songwriter, harmonica player and international touring artist,
  • Joe Restivo – international recording and touring artist with the Bo-Keys; jazz DJ on WEVL, performed regularly with Mose Vinson (RIP) and Charlie Wood,
  • Marc Franklin – co-founder of The Bo-Keys, arranger, and trumpet player; (session artist for Aretha Franklin, B.B. King, Buddy Guy, William Bell, Booker T & The MGs; performed with Bobby “Blue” Bland, Gregg Allman),
  • Paul McKinney – trumpeter and member of Memphis R&B Allstars,
  • Jason Yasinksy – trombonist on both albums,
  • Art Edmaiston – international performing saxophone player (Bobby “Blue” Bland, Levon Helm, William Bell, Hi Rhythm Section, Jason Isbell, The Bo-Keys, Dr. John, The Allman Brothers Band),
  • Kirk Smothers – international performing saxophone player (The Bo-Keys, Buddy Guy, Don Bryant, Jason Isbell, Vaneese Thomas),
  • Tim Goodwin (RIP) – University of Memphis Professor Emeritus, recipient of Memphis Chapter NARAS’s Premier Bassist Award (2002),
  • Matthew Wilson – international touring artist (Nick Moss Band, John Paul Keith, The Blue Dreamers),
  • Gerald Stephens – U of Memphis masters in piano performance; professor of Jazz Piano at Rhodes College; 20+ year Memphis area performer,
  • Earl Lowe – U of Memphis alum; drummer on both albums,
  • Al Gamble – Hammond B3 organist and pianist (The Bo-Keys, Marc Broussard, John Paul Keith, St. Paul and The Broken Bones) (NOT BAND MEMBER),
  • Scott Thompson – GRAMMY-winning trumpet player (Robert Cray, Otis Rush); U of Memphis masters in jazz pedagogy; session and touring artist (Al Green, Aretha Franklin, Ray Charles, Rufus Thomas) (NOT BAND MEMBER),





FEBRUARY 18, 2022