Katie Webster | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Pianist Katie Webster is one of the seminal musicians in Louisiana blues and R & B. She lent her driving boogie-woogie piano and soulful balladry to classic sides by the likes of Lonnie Brooks, Slim Harpo, Lightnin' Slim, and almost everyone else who passed through the legendary hit factories at Lake Charles's Excello and Goldband Records in the 50s and 60s. Her most famous gig came when Otis Redding hired her as his pianist during the final three years of his career. Few musicians can boast such a solid and varied apprenticeship; her current show is a joyous celebration of it, incorporating blues, soul, pop standards, and her patented wall-shaking boogie breakdowns with flawless technique and irrepressible abandon. As if this weren't enough, her voice is a musical wonder; she whispers sensuous ballads and grinds out bayou raunch with equal amounts of sureness and emotional commitment. Like many pianists, Katie is at her best when forced to work hard in a solo setting; that's how she's booked here. Tonight, Shades, 21860 N. Milwaukee, Prairie View; 634-2583. Saturday, Cotton Chicago, 3204 N. Wilton; 528-1651.

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

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