The south side used to be known for its Sunday blues–at Florence’s Lounge, Louise’s South Park Lounge, and the rest of the circuit. In recent years that tradition has faded somewhat, but harpist Grady Freeman seems determined to change that situation. Freeman sings in an expressive vibrato reminiscent of Rice Miller, and his harp blowing is raucous and elemental in the postwar-Chicago mold. The Family Band, meanwhile, is an impressive mixture of south-side veterans (tenor saxophonist Little Bobby, guitarist Smiley Tillman) and impressive newcomers like altoist Fred Brooks, who contributes Sonny Stitt-like variations on traditional blues themes. Brooks and Tillman nicely complement Little Bobby’s roadhouse minimalism, adding a tantalizing edge of bebop sophistication. That interplay–along with the contrast between Freeman’s rough-edged blowing and the subtleties of his sidemen–makes for a pleasing musical tension. This gig is still something of a well-kept south-side secret; with the right support it could blossom into an exciting new Sunday tradition. Sundays, 7-11:30 PM, By Chance Lounge, 714 E. 79th; 846-0728.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Bruce Powell.