Pianist Charles Brown, one of the pioneers of the sophisticated, sweet west-coast blues style that emerged during World War II in California, made the smoky, romantic blues ballad–“Black Night,” “Merry Christmas Baby,” “Driftin’ Blues”–his forte. But dexterous subtleties of technique reveal his early classical training; one of his first public appearances was at a talent show in 1943 at LA’s Lincoln Theatre, where he got first place for his rendition of “Clair de Lune.” By the mid-40s, however, Brown had become the premier proponent of the burgeoning west-coast style, his influence shaping the styles and careers of contemporaries Little Willie Littlefield, Amos Milburn, and Ray Charles. Brown’s revitalized career has given rise to an increasingly busy touring schedule and studio sessions featuring the obligatory guest spots by admiring white superstars (Bonnie Raitt et al). His technique is as flawless as ever, and the laconic after-hours romanticism of his ballads remains one of the most soothing and seductive sounds in blues. Saturday, FitzGeralds, 6615 Roosevelt, Berwyn; 708-788-2118.

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