It's been almost a decade since The Big Easy first made zydeco popular, and now hardly a week goes by without an opportunity to hear it played in some Chicago club. With Clifton Chenier long gone, the mantle has been inherited by several spirited modernists--Chenier's son C.J., Terrance Simien, and Buckwheat Zydeco, among others. But still at it is Boozoo Chavis, the man behind the first-ever zydeco recording, 1954's classic "Paper in My Shoe," and for uncut, exuberant zydeco he remains nonpareil. The 63-year-old's fear of flying prevented him from spreading his energetic music for years, but recently he's been making up for lost time. His Chicago debut at FitzGerald's a few years back found the Stetson-wearing singer holding court like a master, his boundless energy on accordion perfectly supported by his crack band the Majic Sounds, which includes his son Charles on rub board and fulfilling emcee duties. Where younger practitioners have been introducing pop into the music, Chavis sticks to more traditional stuff, but he and his band perform with too much zest to sound archaic; the new Live! at the Habibi Temple (Rounder) captures a particularly smoldering performance at home in Lake Charles. Boozoo's booming, bluesy vocals explode out of his crackling music as the kicker. This rare chance to see Chavis is part of a concert billed as "Festival New Orleans," which also includes performances by the excellent Rebirth Brass Band, Cajun populists Beausoleil, gritty R & B singer Marva Wright, dull Jimmy Buffett proteges the Iguanas, the Wild Magnolias Mardi Gras Indians, and Simien. Sunday, 1 PM, Poplar Creek Music Theatre, Rts. 59 and 72 at the Northwest Tollway, Hoffman Estates; 559-1212 or 708-426-1222.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Rick Olivier.