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Tuesday, Oct. 27, 2009

Aaron Moore

Talking to a Blues Legend

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Legendary blues pianist Aaron Moore doesn’t particularly want to talk about touring with Muddy Waters, playing with B.B. King or knowing a “good man” named Elvis Presley. At 89 years old, and as one of the few remaining survivors of the 1950’s Chicago boogie-woogie blues scene, Moore is more inclined to reminisce about the experiences that shaped his career, the musicians who influenced him and his love of the blues.

Moore was born and raised in Greenwood, Mississippi. His mother, a music teacher, taught him how to play the piano, but she disapproved of her son’s interest in the music he heard being played on the streets. “I wasn’t allowed to play the blues when my mother was teaching. She just didn’t like the sound of the blues. It just didn’t compare with church music,” he says. 

Though she never came to hear him perform, Moore smiles and nods knowingly when he speaks of her. “That’s just the way she was, but she was right in her own way.”

When, in 1951, Moore moved from Greenwood to Chicago in search of better work, he became the protégé of Roosevelt Sykes, a celebrated piano player and charismatic performer with a rumbling boogie style. “He was the one that really taught me the different angles of the blues and jazz. I wanted to play like him.”

Sykes wasn’t the only legend Moore encountered in Chicago. “When I first got to Chicago, I met this guy they called Muddy Waters and this guy Jimmy Reed,” he recalls.“ There were a bunch of guys like that then. They were making money and everything and I tried to get with them too, but I couldn’t play to the standards.” Moore hit the road, determined to perfect their styles and master their timing.

“I traveled with them to see what they were doing. So I would listen to them real strong, so I could play just like them. When some of the guys would get drunk and couldn’t make the grade, they would call me in to play and that’s how I got started and eventually I became a pretty big man.”

When Moore took the stage at the Times Cinema on Oct. 24., he was a “pretty big man.” Dressed in a pressed grey suit, the crowd-pleaser pounded the keys and sang the blues with a lifetime of experience behind him. With his soulful vocals and youthful intensity, Moore brought back the boogie-woogie golden era, only this time everyone wanted to play like him.