Nuwki Nu | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader
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Georgia-born Nuwki Nu grew up in Detroit, where he played trumpet and keyboards in soul bands before moving to Chicago in 1975 to attend Chicago State on a music scholarship. In the late 90s, after suffering a back injury that threatened his ability to play, he picked up the harmonica and began to focus on the blues. Nuwki (it's a childhood nickname) has released a pair of self-produced four-song CDs that showcase his fusion of roots-rich harp work with rhythms and linear melodies carried over from his days as a funk horn man. On the three-chord shuffle "Miss'n You," from this year's One Man Blues Band, his trumpetlike phrases have a broad, countrified timbre. Guitarist Elmo del Firre's herky-jerky, slightly distorted rhythm patterns lend a touch of rock 'n' roll abandon to "I Love It," from 2000's Nu Blues Groove; Nuwki soars jubilantly over the top, phrasing with a bugler's crispness. Most intriguing, though, is "All Night Long," also on One Man Blues Band, a single-chord workout where Nuwki recalls sitting in at the late Junior Kimbrough's juke in Chulahoma, Mississippi. The tune's churning sound invokes the heady blend of carnality and spirit possession that infused the place when things got rocking, and the echo-enhanced percussion track and repetitive, heavy-on-the-one bass link Kimbrough's hill-country atavism with contemporary R & B and hip-hop. Nuwki has this bill to himself, but at McMahon's, audience members sometimes join in and jam. Free. Wednesday, July 28, 8:30 PM, B.J. McMahon's, 5432 W. 95th St., Oak Lawn; 708-422-3111.

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

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