The neighborhood clubs of Chicago’s south and west sides aren’t the incubators of blues talent that they used to be, but some artists on that circuit still have the potential to break out and establish themselves among a more general audience. One is vocalist Mzz Reese, a sultry alto who cites Denise LaSalle as her primary inspiration. Reese’s “Cookies,” a sexual throwdown in the LaSalle mode (“If you don’t treat my cookies right / I’ll be dippin’ someone else’s milk”), shares its title with her self-released 2015 debut album, and it’s already become her signature song.
Mzz Reese performs “Cookies” at the Ambrosia Room with Reese’s Pieces in May 2019.
Nonetheless, audiences in the clubs Reese usually works tend to prefer covers of well-known standards, so that’s what she gives them. To her credit, when she chooses tunes—the Pointer Sisters’ “Fire,” Gwen McCrae’s “Rockin’ Chair”—she does her best to find some that haven’t been overdone, mixing them in with guaranteed crowd-pleasers (“I Can’t Stand the Rain,” for instance, as well as the offerings from LaSalle’s songbook she includes in most of her shows). She’s a straightforward stylist, preferring nuance and subtlety to pyrotechnics, but she sings everything with a fervor that no doubt draws on her gospel background.
Fri 6/7, 5 PM, Front Porch Stage
Fri 6/7, 9 PM, Dr. J’s Place, 3421 W. Chicago, free, 21+
Malina Moye, Mzz Reese
Sat 6/29, 9:30 PM, Buddy Guy’s Legends, 700 S. Wabash, $20, 21+
Reese has recently assembled her strongest and most versatile band yet, dubbed Reese’s Pieces, and over the past year or so they’ve become a regular attraction at Buddy Guy’s Legends, among other upscale venues. And in today’s musical marketplace, that’s an encouraging sign for their future. v