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

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Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown




"Don't call me a blues player," Gatemouth Brown told photographer James Fraher when he posed for The Blues Is a Feeling, Fraher's recent collection of blues portraits, "I am an American world musician, Texas drive." Brown has roots in the hard-swinging big-band blues 'n' boogie he recorded for Aladdin and Peacock in the 40s, but today his music is a kaleidoscope of western swing, Cajun, hard-core country, funk, rock, and jazz. His guitar style still echoes T-Bone Walker--even at its most emotive, it stays pristine and precise--and he can completely change the complexion of a solo with a single, seemingly offhand modulation in pitch or timbre. He saws away at his fiddle with the raucous abandon of an Opry veteran, and on mandolin he combines the jaunty Tex-Mex of his youth with the high-lonesome ache of classic bluegrass. In 1997 Brown went home on Gate Swings (Verve), recruiting a brawny big band to take his sound back 50 years: as his boys swung regally behind him, his sweet and slithery guitar leads brought to life both standards ("Flying Home," "Take the 'A' Train") and a handful of impishly elegant originals. Alto saxist Eric Demmer, who appeared on the record, is Brown's current horn man; word is that this show will feature a lot of that material. But eclecticism is still Gate's calling; he's also bringing his fiddle, and even on guitar he's likely to jump from the uptown polish of Gate Swings into a cactus-crunch anthem or a funked-up dance-floor workout. Friday, 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): photo by Michael Jackson.

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