After years as sideman to some of Chicago’s most illustrious legends–Big Walter Horton, Sunnyland Slim, and Otis Rush among others–guitarist Steve Freund is stepping out on his own. Those who remember him for his puckish, sometimes outlandish rhythm patterns behind Horton’s sweet-toned harp are in for a surprise: he has disciplined (but not reined in) his imagination, and his intensity has grown over the years. Freund still mixes and matches styles with a delightfully audacious exuberance, but he’s toned his excesses down: crisp and fiery, his leads at once cut to the bone and restlessly seek new directions, all within the context of straight-ahead blues improvisation. Especially notable is his reading of Otis Rush’s “All Your Love,” which has become something of a Freund theme in recent years. On a good night, he can summon a dark intensity on that song that few besides Rush himself can match. And Freund’s voice seems to get surer every time he performs. Saturday, Tip On Inn, 12132 Western, Blue Island; 708-385-9740. Monday, B.L.U.E.S., 2519 N. Halsted; 528-1012.

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