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12-1:15pm Mzz Reese and Reece’s Pieces

Jackson, Mississippi-born Mzz Reese has risen to become one of Chicago’s premier blues/soul-blues vocalists. She’s a mainstay at Buddy Guy’s Legends and Blue Chicago, among other venues, and her annual Taurus Takeover party, which she co-hosts every spring with several other leading Chicago blues divas, is a red-letter day event on the social calendar for South and West Side blues lovers. Backed by her Pieces, who include some of our city’s finest first-call blues sessionmen, she delivers a tight, professionally crafted show with her burnished alto vocals and sassy storytelling (she introduces Pat Cooley’s  “Older Woman Younger Man,” which she patterns after Denise LaSalle’s 2010 cover version, with a spoken narration that would do justice to the late Ms. LaSalle herself). But Reese got her start in gospel, and the heart of her message is inspirational—when she quiets things down to remind her audience how blessed she feels as a two-time cancer survivor, and then caps things off with a heartfelt rendition of William DeVaughn's “Be Thankful for What You Got,” the line between juke joint and church seems to dissolve, and all that remains is celebration.  (DW)

1:30-2:45pm Melvin Taylor

Virtuoso Guitarist Melvin Taylor always embraced a world of music with jazz chord changes and rock effects that inform his clean tone. Born in Jackson, Miss., his family moved to Chicago when he was a child and he learned directly from some of the greats who were close to him, including his great aunt Sister Rosetta Tharpe. Working in clubs before his teenage years, Taylor joined Muddy Waters’ former colleagues to tour Europe as part of the Legendary Blues Band. He started recording his own albums in the early 1980s, including his excellent 1982 debut, Blues On The Run. Since then, his timing has become sharper and his textures increasingly complex. Along with his global success, he has been a fixture at Chicago’s Rosa’s. He has also continued recording and writing, such as most of the tracks on his stunning 2012 album, Taylor Made. (AC)

3:00-4:15pm Ra’Shad The Blues Kid

Ra’Shad The Blues Kid was born Larry Ra’Shad Lavar McGill in Laurel, Miss., in 1987. Inspired to play music by watching the guitarist in his church gospel ensemble, he acquired his own first instrument when he was about 16; at age 23 he initiated his first band, dubbed The Groove Band, and began playing live shows, rapidly expanding his reputation to include parts of Alabama as well as his native Mississippi. He dropped his first album, Country Soul, in 2017,  and over the next few years his reputation grew further; he performed at the Delemont Blues Festival in Sweden, he was recognized by the International Blues Hall of Fame and the Jus’ Blues Music Awards, and he was inducted into the Alabama Blues Hall of Fame. Performing in a style that combines deep-Delta guitar technique with sprightly dance grooves adapted from modern-day soul-blues and southern soul, and singing in a smooth-edged baritone croon that’s both sexy and emotionally charged, the Blues Kid transcends genre and challenges expectations, forging a distinct, personal style crafted to please diverse audiences and tastes. (DW)

4:30-5:45pm Dexter Allen

Dexter Allen melds deep blues, funk, soul, and R&B with the shape-shifting panache of one who honed his craft under the eye of that master storyteller and trickster, Bobby Rush. Born in Crystal Springs, Miss., in 1970, Allen acquired his first instrument, a bass guitar, when he was 12. He played gospel for several years then moved to Jackson, where he honed his guitar chops, insinuated himself into the city’s thriving blues scene, and caught the attention of Rush, who hired him as lead guitarist and took him on the road, bringing him to the attention of blues lovers worldwide. He dropped his first CD under his own name in 2008; he’s continued to record since then, and although he’s led his own band for at least 15 years, he has also continued to work with Rush in the studio – he played guitar and bass on Rush’s Grammy-winning All My Love for You in 2023.  On his own, Allen lays his quick-fingered fretwork over propulsive, danceable grooves, delivering his vividly drawn, sometimes sardonic life lessons and blues parables in a mellow yet passionate voice girded with both humor and toughness.  (DW)


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