West-sider Cicero Blake incorporates a good deal more blues in his soul stew than many other singers of similar musical persuasion. With an intense, keening voice that soars effortlessly into upper ranges where others would have to rely on falsetto screaming, Blake manages to give even the slickest blues and R & B arrangements a charge that’s both aesthetically pleasing and emotionally satisfying. The music is definitely on the mild side of the blues street; Blake’s longtime band, the Masheen Company, might be a bit slick for some tastes, but his steady professionalism and especially his rapport with the audience (probably his most distinctive feature) always manage to keep at least a few edges unsmoothed. Too often, performers’ attempts at audience ingratiation seem affected, grudging, or egotistical; Cicero’s spontaneous warmth lends his shows a generosity of spirit that’s as distinctive as it is rare. Tonight and Saturday, B.L.U.E.S., 2519 N. Halsted; 528-1012.

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