Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown


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Multiinstrumentalist (guitar, violin, drums, harmonica) Gatemouth Brown started out in various Texas-based territory bands in the 1940s and, like most Texas jazz and blues artists of that era, was heavily influenced by T-Bone Walker. Walker's fusion of stark, intense traditional Texas blues with swinging, sophisticated jazz remains the foundation for much of Brown's music, but Gate cannot be pigeonholed. He's as likely to grab his fiddle and break into a torrid version of "Orange Blossom Special" as he is to evoke Walker's cool melodicism, and lately he's adapted himself to funk rhythms and the sonic demands of rock as well. It all adds up to an astonishing display of virtuosity, occasionally jarring in its stylistic shifts but never less than exhilarating. Not even the turgid message songs Brown's been including lately about universal brotherhood and the evils of drugs can intrude for long on his patented stylistic bravura and his brazen leaps across genres and generations. Brown's show is both an all-night danceathon and one man's testimonial to half a century of blues tradition. Saturday, Biddy Mulligan's, 7644 N. Sheridan; 761-6532.

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

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