Steve Freund paints Tahoe in Chicago blues

Steve Freund has learned much about the blues.

He cut almost 50 records and toured extensively with Sunnyland Slim, James Cotton, Boz Skaggs and Koko Taylor.

“If you want to play blues it’s not just learning the notes and the chords,” Freund told Tahoe Onstage. “Those people came up a certain way and they have certain priorities. The key was learning not what the people play but why they play and how they think and what’s important and how you treat other musicians.”

Freund will be the guest artist on Tuesday, Jan. 19, joining the Buddy Emmer Band for Tuesday Night Winter Blues at Harrah’s Lake Tahoe Center Stage. The weekly show from 8 p.m.-midnight.

A native of Brooklyn, Freund immersed himself in the blues when he moved to Chicago at the age of 24, staying in the Windy City for 18 years. After many blues greats died, the scene changed and in 1994 Freund moved to the Bay Area. He played many times with his former band the Dynatones at the Peppermill in Reno.

He plays many different hues of blues: Chicago-style from the 1960s, prewar Big Bill Broonzy and Memphis Minnie, and contemporary. His experience with the older players was invaluable to his sound, he said.

“The music part can be learned other ways,” Freund said. “But it’s not only how you play but it’s why you play and what you play and your material and the stories behind all these songs. They are all short stories, little vignettes. They tell a story and they have a moral, too. And you learn from that.

“And you go on the road and you learn from older folks how hard it was for them to survive coming up through the racism and the bigotry when most of these African-American artists, especially the Chicago musicians were all from the deep South, usually Mississippi and Southern Tennessee and Arkansas and those kind of Delta places. They really endured a lot of racism and you just learned about that. You develop a sense of empathy and a sense of right and wrong. It just instills that into you.”

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