Pianist Barrelhouse Chuck hails from Alaska, but his playing is imbued with the Chicago fire of his mentors Little Brother Montgomery and Sunnyland Slim. He’s been gigging around town in a variety of contexts for a number of years, and he’s now fronting an exciting band of Chicagoans including west siders, Johnny B. Moore (guitar), Willie Kent (bass), and Barkin’ Bill (vocals), as well as percussionist Merle Perkins (formerly of Big Twist and the Mellow Fellows). Moore and Kent lay down a raw, driving Chicago blues background for the booming baritone of singer Barkin’ Bill, whose smooth voice is surprisingly adaptable to jazz-tinged standards and gutsy blues alike. Bill’s impish mischievousness is also complemented perfectly by Chuck’s burning intensity on the keyboard. This band fuses classic street-level blues swagger with Bill’s jazz-singing roots, and the result is an exuberant good time laced with a unique and pleasing sophistication. Mondays, Blue Chicago, 937 N. State; 642-6261.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/James Fraher.