Having gigged professionally only since 1991, Beau Jocque reportedly has become the south Louisiana zydeco circuit's biggest draw, besting such established names as Boozoo Chavis and Buckwheat Zydeco, all while demonstrating how to modernize a traditional style without sucking the soul out of it. As a melodist, he's no Mozart, but he compensates for that through sheer heartthrobbing rhythmic panache, ripping his way through pumping funk beats, ska-ish meters, and boogie shuffles with the assistance of a powerful rhythm section that slams this shit harder than it's ever been slammed. Then there's Jocque's modest harmonic innovation, necessitated by the fact that like a basic ten-hole harmonica the diatonic button accordion is severely limited in its tonal options; while each right-hand button voices a single note, each left-hand button sings a complete major chord. So Jocque's fondness for minor keys presents him with a nice technical challenge that he meets by simply working the major chords in anyway, combating zydeco's usual harmonic monotony with hues of scrappy dissonance. Don't miss the exciting call-and-response between Jocque and his drummer, Steve Charlot, who answers Jocque's gruff shouts with a reedy, cracking yelp, like some old-time Jamaican reggae toaster. The product of all this is something genuinely new: a nervous, deliciously raw, machete-edged noise that stretches out the possibilities of zydeco without losing its grip on the genre's blues-bedrock trustworthiness. Which is to say that it sounds not at all like a newfangled hybrid but, oddly, like something quite ancient. Friday and Saturday, 10 PM, FitzGerald's, 6615 Roosevelt, Berwyn; 708-788-2118.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Rick Olivier.