Bassist Willie Kent has been a mainstay on the west-side blues circuit for years. Recently he’s been expanding his base of operations, and his no-nonsense brand of muscular, energetic blues is rapidly becoming a citywide attraction. Kent sings with a hard vibrato that sometimes reminds one of the churchier west-side soul men, but his music is boilerplate Chicago blues–a deep shuffle, aggressive tone, and a low-key onstage affability that’s a welcome relief from the abrasive macho some of his contemporaries feel compelled to affect. Kent’s success over the past few years has allowed him to retain and nurture a band of hungry young musicians who complement his Chicago traditionalism with flights into more contemporary funk and pop-jazz material. But it’s all anchored by Kent’s hard-core blues sensibility; Kent and his band are that rare aggregation that can please purists and adventurists alike.

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