New to the Blue Gem Line Up

The Black Cabrettas


An All-Star Line Up Featuring R&B-Blues-Soul and Americana Music

Ed Sanders-Vocals

Ed began singing and playing bass in bands at age 16. He has played with various R&B and Soul bands through the years and is noted for his showmanship, strong vocals and wit from the stage. Previous bands include-Big Sweaty Men-Check it Out Son & Doc Malort.

J. R. Wydra-Guitar & Vocals

J.R. has been playing guitar for over twenty years. Since playing his first paid gig at age 14, he has played countless shows throughout the United States and Canada playing rock, R&B, jazz and blues. J. R. has shared the stage with many great blues artists including Buddy Guy, Eddy “The Chief” Clearwater, Sugar Blue, Linsey Alexander, Chico Banks, Guy King, Sam Cockrell, Pat Smilie, Liz Mandeville and Toronzo Cannon to name a few. Besides blues, J.R. has also led his original rock bands including Distance, The Hudson Landing and his current project Twin Jones. 

James Digirolamo-Bass

James has performed professionally for more than 30 years, with extensive experience in upright and electric bass and guitar. He studied at De Paul University’s School of Jazz Music and privately with Larry Gray, who plays with Ramsey Lewis.

He has done radio and television jingles , studio session work and a great deal of pit work at Chicago’s Orchestra Hall. He has also played with the Chicago Children’s Choir and several seasons with the Paducah Symphony Orchestra.

James band experience includes swing with the Riff Rockets, the Rhythm Rockets, blues with Barrelhouse Chuck, Pinetop Perkins and the Willie Hays Band. James has played pop-rock with Burnt Toast, Selective Recall, JP and the Cats  and jazz with countless groups including Bob Mintzer and the Tom Sorich Trio, to name a few. His repertoire also includes country, zydeco and rock-a-billy.

James was nominated for a WC Handy Award with Nick Moss and the Flip Tops.

Mark (Max) Brumbach-Keyboard

Mark is a native Chicagoan who started playing guitar and harmonica in 1963, at age 12. Within a few years he also picked up electric bass and piano. By age 18 he worked as a sideman with Johnny Young on harmonica and with Wild Child Butler on piano.

These gigs led to lengthy stints with drummer/bandleader Sam Lay and the Great Sunnyland Slim ( with whom he recorded for Airway Records in 1974.) By the early 1970’s he was backing up such Chicago Blues stalwarts as Eddie Taylor, Big Mojo, Johnny Littlejohn, J.B. Hutto and Mighty Joe Young, among others. He toured with Chicago R & B/Soul legend Otis Clay for 2 years. Soon after which he toured Canada with Blues great Jimmy Reed and ended up staying there a number of years to tour with rockabilly wild-man Matt Lucas.

Jon Hiller-Drums

Jon has been a significant part of the Chicago Blues scene for decades. He began playing clubs at age 16, when after leaving his own band ” Blues by Five,” joined the Bob Riedy Blues Band and was able to play with his music heroes. He began to tour with Carey Bell, Johnny Littlejohn, Otis Rush and his music hero Sam Lay. He was part of Chuck Berry’s Band at his New Years Eve performance in Chicago that was broadcast live. 

Jon was a part of the recent documentary, “Sam Lay in Blues Land,” in which he held the drum chair behind Sam. Jon is also heard on many Delmark Records recordings  and others from 1977-2004, including Jimmie Johnson, Eddy Clearwater, Matt Lucas, Dave Spector, Tad Robinson, Barkin Bill Smith, Bonnie Lee, Karen Caroll and Ken Saydak.

Jon felt fortunate  to work with Rock-a Billy Hall of Famer, Matt Lucas and Rock and Roll Hall of Famer, James Burton ( Elvis Presley’s Guitar Player.) This recording is available on Jon’s record label Ten O Nine Records.  When he isn’t playing with the Black Cabrettas, Jon continues to work with bands in Chicago and perform with Shawn Pittman from Broken Arrow Oklahoma. He is part owner of Blue Gem Productions. 



Soul, R&B and Blues