Pianist Aaron Moore moved to Chicago in 1951, and he’s since played as a sideman for everyone from B.B. King and Little Milton to local figures like Clarence “Sonny Boy Williamson Jr.” Anderson; he even claims that Howlin’ Wolf and Muddy Waters both tried to recruit him. Though he relocated to Milwaukee a few years back, he’s still a presence on Chicago’s blues scene: in 1996, when he finally cut his debut disc as a leader, Hello World, the local Delmark label put it out. That record showcases his understated eloquence on ballads, his easy, powerful swing on up-tempo numbers, and especially his grace and prowess as an ensemble musician–his subtle control of rhythm, dynamics, and harmonic color steers his sidemen so efficiently that at times it sounds like he’s playing the band as a second instrument. Moore’s latest disc, last year’s Boot ‘Em Up! (also on Delmark), offers more of the same–and this time his sidemen’s resumes cover most of the last 40 years of blues history. Drummer Willie “Big Eyes” Smith, an alumnus of Muddy Waters’s bands of the 60s and 70s, has mastered the deep-pocket shuffle that defined the Chicago style during its halcyon days: the core of the rhythm is a straight backbeat, but the snare drags almost imperceptibly behind the ride cymbal, giving the combination of the two sounds a paper-thin delicacy. Bassist Bob Stroger darts through nimble runs that’d tangle a lesser bassist in knots, all the while maintaining his trademark loping swing–which can propel a soloist or a full-bore electric ensemble with equal sureness. Guitarist James Wheeler, who also graced Moore’s debut, combines a muted, elegant tone and an agility reminiscent of the most propulsive jump blues with the blunt phrases and forthright emotions of a juke-joint veteran. The same musicians will accompany Moore at this weekend’s shows. Friday and Saturday, 9:30 PM, Rosa’s Lounge, 3420 W. Armitage; 773-342-0452. Incidentally, Moore claims Friday will be his 72nd birthday; his wife says he’s at least ten years older.

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