Jeannie and Jimmy Cheatham and the Sweet Baby Blues Band play in the Kansas City blues style at its best. The musicians, individually and collectively, are Masters. They come together in a medley of shared ideas, stepping out with creative solos, presenting a magnificent feast of joyful music. Their energy, based on spiritual inspiration, flows from one to the other. Their emphasis is on sharing - not only with each other, but with the audience, making the audience one with the band.
Their music is unrestrained, exuberant, soulful, rollicking, growling, howling, roaring, wicked, virtuous, wild and truthful. The great Thad Jones greeted them with a grin as they came offstage at the Fujitsu Concord Jazz Festival, saying, “Thank you. Thank you for bringing us back to The Truth!” Their sound is big and bold and beautiful. They talk about today using a vehicle of yesterday.
Jeannie Cheatham’s musical style was shaped in the church choir in Akron, Ohio. She began to study piano when she was five and went on to play in the school band. She and Jimmy Cheatham taught at the University of Wisconsin before moving to San Diego in 1978, where they continue to make their home.
Jimmy Cheatham retired as Professor Emeritus status in 1993 from the University of California at San Diego as Professor of Music. Jimmy was such a valuable resource, however, that UCSD officials hired him back immediately to continue in his role as Jazz Ensemble Director. In 1993, Jimmy and the UCSD Jazz Ensemble were selected by the San Diego Music Awards Committee for Best Jazz Ensemble. The Cheathams and the Sweet Baby Blues Band were voted as the Best Jazz Band in the area by the same group.
Jimmy taught Improvisation and Black Music History and was the Director of UCSD’s Jazz Program during his active teaching years. Over the years, he has played bass trombone with Duke Ellington, Lionel Hampton, Thad Jones and Ornette Coleman, and was Musical Director for Chico Hamilton. He arranges all the songs for the Sweet Baby Blues Band and co-writes with his wife, Jeannie, most of their original songs.
Jeannie performed with Big Mama Thornton off and on for ten years. She was featured with Thornton and Sippie Wallace in the award-winning PBS television special “Three Generations of the Blues.” In 1984, she toured with Cab Calloway. Prior to that, she was on the road accompanying blues greats such as T-Bone Walker, Joe Williams, Al Hibbler, Dinah Washington, Odetta and Jimmy Witherspoon. In 1990, she appeared with Marian McPartland on the popular radio series Piano Jazz. She is a most clever lyric writer, a gifted pianist and a delightful singer.