Mad Dog Lester Davenport | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Mad Dog Lester Davenport 

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Harmonica player Lester Davenport's first big break occurred in 1956 when he joined Bo Diddley's touring band and cut a few sides with Bo on the Chess label. Despite that auspicious beginning, this master of the sweet-toned, emotionally rich Chicago harp style remained little more than a neighborhood celebrity on the west side until a few years ago when he signed on with Big Daddy Kinsey and the Kinsey Report. That job gained Davenport worldwide recognition and prepared him for his long-overdue ascension as a bandleader. Davenport's style incorporates diverse elements from the glory days of Chicago harmonica blues--the tonal eloquence of Big Walter Horton, the linear elasticity of John Lee "Sonny Boy" Williamson, Little Walter's fleet melodicism--but he seasons everything with his own relaxed sense of improvisational fun. His lack of flamboyance may be what held Davenport back for so long, but with a hot new CD out on Earwig and a tight band of Chicago stalwarts backing him up, he's finally reaching the ears of listeners who've grown tired of the overwrought histrionics that characterize so much contemporary blues. Wednesday, 9:30 PM, Rosa's, 3420 W. Armitage; 342-0452.

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

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