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

Roomful of Blues 

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ROOMFUL OF BLUES

Midway through its fourth decade, Roomful of Blues has warranted a few names it didn't choose: it's logged more miles than Blues Traveler and outlasted the Soul Survivors. Muddy Waters, the story goes, used to call the band "House of Blues"--apparently he didn't think one room was enough--a coinage Dan Aykroyd liked so much he made it the name of his nightclub. Founded in 1967 by Duke Robillard, Roomful of Blues got such a head start on the 90s swing craze that it's lapped the field: the band's riding a second wave of popularity and respect even as slicker knockoffs, from Brian Setzer to the homegrown Mighty Blue Kings, wash up on the shore. By virtue of its vintage, Roomful inevitably revisits the blues-inflected rock tunes of the 50s and 60s (a la Fats Domino), which work well enough. And the group's 1998 effort, There Goes the Neighborhood (Bullseye Blues), with gritty new vocalist Mac Odom, favors a more conventional blues-band sound. But Roomful has always sounded most at home pounding out the Louis Jordan jump blues that reigned before rock 'n' roll--and some of these guys learned it at the source, backing Eddie "Cleanhead" Vinson, Big Joe Turner, and Doc Pomus on disc over the years. As you'd expect of any outfit this Methuselahan, Roomful of Blues has undergone frequent personnel changes, but longtime standouts Rich Lataille (alto sax), Bob Enos (trumpet), and John Rossi (drums) prevent the group from becoming just another roomful of suits. Friday, 9:30 PM, Buddy Guy's Legends, 754 S. Wabash; 312-427-0333.

NEIL TESSER

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

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