Roomful of Blues | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Roomful of Blues

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Sometimes you can tell a band by its alumni: two of our most insightful and eclectic young blues guitarists, Duke Robillard and Ronnie Earl, cut their teeth in this veteran New England-based group. Those names alone should give you an idea of Roomful's style: they mix hip jump-blues sophistication with enough rawness to keep the house rocking, all within a framework of brawny big-band swing. Sugar Ray Norcia's sweet-timbred baritone vocals evoke a more callow Billy Eckstine, and the band's unusually wide array of soloists--from guitarist Chris Vachon to trombonist Carl Querfurth to baritone saxophonist Doug James--evokes over a half century of tradition and an entire continent's worth of regional styles in a single set, sometimes in a single number. You might expect such a mix to challenge the boundaries of even the most eclectic tastes, but Roomful avoid the traps of dilettantish mustiness and frat-boy posing with their effortless artistry, their warmhearted dedication to both roots and stylistic growth, and their elegantly understated refusal to take themselves too seriously. Friday, 9 PM, Buddy Guy's Legends, 754 S. Wabash; 427-0333 or 427-1190.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): Photo/Jean Hangarter.

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