A rosy new stage for Sugar Blue

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Sugar Blue

Chicago blues master Sugar Blue and his wife Ilaria Lantieri. (Phil Velasquez, Chicago Tribune / March 26, 2013)

"I'm feeling great about it," he says. "There's something so magical and wonderful about a life coming into the world. We bought a sonogram machine so we can hear him, hear the heartbeat and hear him flipping and flopping around in there. When I put my hand on Ilaria's stomach, he kicks. When I put my harmonica on and play for him, he'll be kicking and playing around, and then he'll stop, and you know he's listening.

"It's the sweetest lesson I've had since my daughter was born."

Blue and Lantieri, who became a couple in 2005 and were married in 2012, not surprisingly have found inspiration for their son's name from the blues.

"We have decided to name the baby James, in honor of (bluesman) James Cotton, (writer) James Baldwin and me," Blue says.

"And also good old James Stewart, because he was one of my favorite actors, especially in 'Mr. Smith Goes to Washington,'" which might be called Frank Capra's take on the blues.

After taking this Wednesday off to tour, Sugar Blue resumes his weekly engagement at 9 p.m. on April 3 at Rosa's Lounge, 3420 W. Armitage Ave.; $10; 773-342-0452 or rosaslounge.com

Farewell Bebo Valdes

It will be a while before the world can take the full measure of Bebo Valdes, the legendary Cuban pianist-composer-bandleader who died Friday in Stockholm at 94. Trained classically but immersed in jazz, he merged the two seamlessly in his compositions, in his work at the fabled Tropicana nightclub in Havana and in recordings before he fled Castro's Cuba for good in 1960.

Valdes, the father of the great pianist-composer Chucho Valdes, slipped into obscurity thereafter but enjoyed unexpected, late-in-life recognition, a story very loosely reflected in the Oscar-nominated animated film "Chico & Rita." The most haunting aspect of the film remains his score, a brilliant synthesis of Afro-Cuban tradition and pulsing, American-influenced jazz.

That score stands as Valdes' musical farewell to the world, and it's worth savoring.


Twitter @howardreich

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