Billy Flynn Blues Featuring Rusty Zinn & Pee Wee Madison | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Billy Flynn Blues Featuring Rusty Zinn & Pee Wee Madison 

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Guitarist Billy Flynn was mentored by such Chicago stalwarts as Jimmy Dawkins and Hubert Sumlin, and in 1984 he joined the Legendary Blues Band, formed by some of Muddy Waters's sidemen who defected en masse in 1980. He's comfortable in an amiable 50s shuffle, but he's also capable of a shimmering tone and fleet arpeggio style, like Texas sophisticate Gatemouth Brown, or a back-alley grind reminiscent of Hound Dog Taylor at his rowdiest. And, as Betty Carter would have said, Flynn has "great big ears": he's a tasteful, attentive accompanist, attuned to a soloist's slightest gesture, and never tries to drive from the backseat. Rusty Zinn, one of two guest guitarists at this gig, is also rooted in Chicago; his early teachers included Waters alumnus Luther Tucker. Though he too can fit his nimble leads into a stripped-down shuffle with casual ease, several tracks on his 1996 debut, Sittin' & Waitin' (Black Top), favor a jaunty jump-blues feel; his jagged tone lends bite to the solos on jivey baubles like "Stand by Me." On meatier fare, his balance of jazzy elan and street grit recalls Willie Johnson on Howlin' Wolf's early sides--and lest you miss the connection, Zinn turns in a menacing, fuzzed-out cover of Wolf's "Moanin' for My Baby." The second guest, James "Pee Wee" Madison, worked in Muddy Waters's band in the 60s and early 70s; though he's spent the last two decades playing almost exclusively in south-side joints, with these shows he's making his second north-side appearance in as many weeks. Madison is unquestionably the rawest guitarist on the bill: his ferocious solos often seem less contructed by design than shaped by instinct, either exploding into shards or searing through the middle of a melody line like a hot coal. Friday and Saturday, 10 PM, Smoke Daddy, 1804 W. Division; 773-772-6656. DAVID WHITEIS

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