Charles Brown is one of the pioneers of the smooth west-coast blues style that emerged during the 40s. Like other California hipsters–Johnny and Oscar Moore, Lloyd Glenn, Floyd Dixon–Brown took the jump blues that migrated west from Texas during and after the war and fused it with an elegant romanticism. Classically trained (his first public performance was an award-winning rendition of “Clare de lune” in 1944), Brown is nonetheless endowed with a swinging jazz sensibility that allows him to breathe life into even the most lugubrious of hard-times ballads. After years of obscurity, during which he worked as a janitor to support himself, he’s back crooning silken classics like “Merry Christmas, Baby” “Driftin’ Blues,” and “Black Night” to a new generation of listeners. If anything, his piano style has become more daring: while he never abandons elegance or submits to a directionless eclecticism, he now incorporates elements of R & B, soul, and even bebop into his trademark smoothness. This is where Ray Charles, among many others, went to school, and the sound is as good as ever. Tuesday through next Sunday, August 27, Metropole Lounge, Fairmont Hotel, Illinois Center, 200 N. Columbus; 565-6665.

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