When: Fri., March 4, 9:30 p.m. 2016
Toronzo Cannon incorporates influences drawn from the postwar Chicago blues tradition with inspirations like Hendrix and post–70s blues rock. On his latest release, The Chicago Way (Alligator), his first for a major blues label, he limns scenarios that are vivid and fraught with emotion, yet resolutely adult: the protagonist in “Fine Seasoned Woman,” for instance, turns down a young temptress in favor of a woman with “a couple of wrinkles” who’s wiser in the ways of life and love. Meanwhile, Cannon’s guitar work bursts with brio, though it’s tempered by restraint—even at his most incendiary, he remembers to play ideas, not just notes. His maturity as both a storyteller and a stylist is especially evident on ballads like “When Will You Tell Him About Me?,” a soul-blues parable about the psychic toll taken by illicit love. On the track he cools down the intensity but remains focused both emotionally and musically, with extended, clear-toned lines that interweave gracefully with his vocals and the backing of his sidemen, including keyboardist Brother John Kattke, guitarist Pete Galanis, bassist Larry Williams, and drummer Melvin “Pookie Styx” Carlisle.