Jimmy Sutton's Four Charms | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Jimmy Sutton's Four Charms


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If you were to walk into the Green Mill one Tuesday and hear Jimmy Sutton's Four Charms, you might feel like you'd fallen through a crack in time--back to when the music of Nat "King" Cole and Count Basie's Kansas City Seven had just begun to give way to the fledgling rock 'n' roll of Bill Haley. The club clears its dance floor of the usual tables to make room for rug cutters dancing to drummer Jim Barclay's swing beat, Sutton's slap-bass solos, the sweet raw sound of Joel Paterson's guitar, and Jonathan Doyle's baritone-sax stings. It's a little like something out of the movie Pleasantville--except this band plays in color, and doesn't have any trouble getting nasty. Though Sutton cofounded the Mighty Blue Kings, he got out before they lost what little credibility they originally had: the Kings masquerade as a jazz band, but they owe their popularity to the appeal of the rock 'n' roll that succeeded late-40s jump jazz. But in the Four Charms' snappy sets and on their just-about-irresistible debut disc, Flatland Boogie (Hi Style), they don't rely much on early rock, instead walking a tightrope between Louis Jordan and Louis Prima. Both Sutton and Paterson infuse their vocals, as well as their playing, with a tangy southwestern flavor (appropriate, since guitarist Charlie Christian, Paterson's obvious model, came up in Oklahoma), and Doyle's tenor solos have a touch of Texas to them. The Four Charms pull it off because they consistently downplay the flamboyant pretense and campy self-consciousness of so many other retro groups. They do what they're supposed to do: they're a dance band, and people dance--though even a wallflower could enjoy their lively, faithful, and heartfelt re-creations of a beautiful little slice of music history. This weekend's shows celebrate the release of Flatland Boogie. Friday, 9 PM, Saturday, 8 PM, and every Tuesday, 9 PM, Green Mill, 4802 N. Broadway; 773-878-5552.


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

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