For years vocalist Little Al Thomas has drawn a tightly knit and enthusiastic band of admirers to clubs like Lee’s Unleaded Blues Lounge on South Chicago, but to most north-siders his supple vocals and wide-ranging repertoire will be a welcome surprise. Born near the Maxwell Street neighborhood in 1930, Thomas came of age during the time when Chicago blues was evolving from its prewar incarnation as a slick, jazz-tinged popular entertainment to the more aggressively rootsy style that took hold in the late 40s and early 50s. His primary modern influence is B.B. King (with strong nods to boyhood idol Louis Jordan), but he also specializes in gritty shuffles and slow blues moaners–he recently cut a demo tape that includes an incendiary version of the Delta standard “Rollin’ and Tumblin’.” Such an eclectic-minded vocalist requires an equally versatile supporting cast, and the Crazy House Band fit the bill: they’ve backed most of the major vocalists on the south- and west-side circuits, and for this gig they’ll include ace pianist Sidney James Wingfield, as well as the late Floyd McDaniel’s Blues Swinger horns. Wednesday, 9 PM, Koko Taylor’s Chicago Blues, 7 W. Division; 337-2583.

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