SUNNYLAND SLIM TRIBUTE
Pianist Barrelhouse Chuck studied under two of Chicago’s all-time masters–Little Brother Montgomery and Sunnyland Slim–and his style is a personalized blend of the former’s percussive rootsiness and the latter’s impeccable melodicism and rhythmic sense. Among the musicians joining him in this tribute to Sunnyland, who died two years ago this month, are two members of Sunnyland’s last working band, rock-steady bassist Bob Stroger and the inventive, jump-blues-influenced saxophonist Sam Burckhardt. Also on board are guitarist Billy Flynn, who combines encyclopedic knowledge with fiery technique and sharp emotional honesty, and vocalist Zora Young, whose throaty rasp is powerful enough to support the fiercest of back-alley imprecations, yet tender and melodic when she wraps it around a love song (she also, mercifully, avoids the kind of forced red-hot-mama vulgarity that some of her contemporaries seem compelled to display). Drummer Kenny Smith, son of Muddy Waters’s longtime percussionist Willie “Big Eyes” Smith, rounds out the lineup; he’s already absorbed his father’s flawless in-the-pocket Chicago shuffle and recently he’s shown an exciting facility for more sophisticated swing and jump patterns as well. This blues summit pays homage not only to one of Chicago’s greatest and most beloved musicians but also to the kind of elegance and style–in a word, class–he personified, and that seems to be getting more precious in the blues world with each passing year. Thursday, March 13, 9:30 PM, Buddy Guy’s Legends, 754 S. Wabash; 312-427-0333. DAVID WHITEIS
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): Sam Burckhardt photo/ Zora Young photo.