The Jeannie and Jimmy Cheatham Sweet Baby Blues Band, six men and two women strong, blew in Friday from its San Diego home base to play two nights at Catalina Bar and Grill.
Pervasive though the blues still is in most jazz territories, this good-time group is like nothing else now active. With Jeannie Cheatham singing and playing straight-from-the-roots piano, and her husband pulling his weight as bass trombonist and arranger, you are transported back to the Savoy Ballroom.
Jeannie shouts not, neither does she holler. Her blues vocals are delivered in an authentic but tempered manner, whether the song is one of her own ("Finance Company Blues," "Evil Ways") or a genuine antique ("Cherry Red," " 'Tain't Nobody's Business"). Now and then she slips in an Ethel Waters growl. Her piano, similarly, is unspectacular yet convincingly geared to the Kansas City mood.
Jimmy Cheatham, whose arrangements are serviceable, keeps his solos down to basics, using few notes and muffling his sound with felt and plunger mutes.