It's hard to believe that musicians like Mark Naftalin, who personified the youthful embrace of blues and R & B by white musicians and audiences in the 60s, are now approaching elder statesman status themselves. Naftalin, a Minneapolis-born keyboardist whose early influences included such Chicago masters as Big Maceo, Otis Spann, and Sunnyland Slim, joined the Paul Butterfield Blues Band in 1965, and his work on its seminal East-West in 1966 helped define the burgeoning blues-rock style. Naftalin left Butterfield in 1968 and migrated to San Francisco, where he hooked up with ex-Butterfield guitarist Mike Bloomfield to inject some Chicago intensity into the laid-back west-coast blues scene. Over the years Naftalin fused the best of blues influences from every era: his Mark Naftalin Rhythm & Blues Revue has featured living legends like Lowell Fulson and Luther Tucker as well as contemporaries like harpist Charlie Musselwhite. Naftalin doesn't tour as much as he used to, but his appearance at the 1995 Blues Festival showed that he's still got the chops. As dedicated as ever to tradition, but forward-looking in his rhythmic drive and harmonic imagination, he remains one of the most vital bluesmen of his generation. He'll be joined by the Transistors' Ron Thompson on guitar, Chicago stalwart Bob Stroger on bass, and drummer Billy Davenport, who replaced original Butterfield percussionist Sam Lay and appeared with Naftalin on East-West, among other recordings. Friday and Saturday, 10 PM, Smoke Daddy, 1804 W. Division; 773-772-6656. Naftalin also opens Buddy Guy's sold-out show Sunday at 9:30 PM at Guy's Legends, 754 S. Wabash; 312-427-0333. DAVID WHITEIS
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo by Worldwide Images.