Pressed to classify his style, the humble Big Pete allows, "I'm more of an urban blues than that Chicago blues. Chicago blues has a boogie beat, but urban blues is like the late '40s, early '50s. It's got a more upbeat shuffle to it."--Serene Dominic

Dr. Fish Blues Band
James Preston Price, a.k.a. Dr. Fish, has been a Phoenix blues and R&B fixture since the '60s when he performed in the legendary Soul Keepers. In the '80s, Fish hit the road as musical arranger and sideman to Little Milton, but soon came home to Phoenix to run his own band and resume his job as organist for his church.

Fish plays sax, guitar, trumpet and keyboards, but these days he's primarily the vocalist for his nine-piece blues band, described by one blues veteran as "the perfect chitlin-circuit groove band." The Fish ensemble employs elements of R&B, jazz and soul, but gospel touches everything it does. Fish calls his music "modern-day blues."

"It's jazz-oriented," he says, "but we're not hung up on any one style." Fish numbers Dizzy Gillespie, Miles Davis, John Coltrane and James Brown among his influences, but it's "Brother Ray" Charles and B.B. King who have most directly inspired the Phoenix blues composer. "B.B. King is the nicest person in the biz," says Fish. "And he's a good friend."--Matt Golosinski

Chico Chism and Hans Olson
Although veteran bluesmen and solo artists Chico Chism and Hans Olson often share a stage, they're not so much an actual band as they are the odd couple of the Valley blues scene.

Olson is an exceptional guitarist and harp player who over the past 25 years has gigged with everyone from Muddy Waters to Brownie McGhee. Olson's gritty, spare guitar style perfectly complements his resonant baritone, and his multi-instrumental abilities make him a fascinating one-man band.

On the flip side, Chism is a wiry little guy with his own share of street cred who spends most of his time bashing away at a drum kit adorned with the horns of some large mammal.

While Chism and Olson approach their craft from quite different angles--the guitarist is subdued and quietly passionate, the drummer comes on like a Vegas showboat--the friction between them more often than not makes for an exciting set. It's hard not to want to smack Chism sometimes when he repeatedly exhorts the crowd to "par-dee!" but there's no denying he can play some drums. Chico's got the blues deep down, where it counts, and he sounds damn fine behind the kit on one of his smoldering, 12-bar strolls like "High Rise Blues."--Matt Golosinski

Patti Williams and Delirious
Soul mama Patti Williams has an outfit hanging in her closet that she says "brings out the diva" in her. It's a gold-sequined, off-the-shoulder blouse that tops off a black-velvet skirt "with a very deep slit."

Not that the clothes make the singer in this case. Williams has been honing her three-and-a-half-octave range since she was 3 years old. She says her first interest was gospel, which she learned by singing as a soloist in church and listening to her grandmother's Ernie Ford and Mahalia Jackson records. Today, Williams knows more than 300 songs, and her material spans the genres of soul, jazz and blues. Comparisons to Aretha Franklin are inevitable but not out of line.

Williams says the key to her honey-dipped vocals is meditation before singing. "I like to relax and go with the vibes I pick up from the audience," she says. "That's what I thrive on."--Leigh Silverman

Best College Rock/Pop
The Chimeras
Call the Chimeras "another Tempe band" and they'll probably thank you for the compliment.

"The camaraderie of Tempe bands goes a lot deeper than music," says singer/songwriter Lawrence Zubia. "It's about people who care about each other."

Lawrence's brother and bandmate Mark agrees: "It would be the same if we all played out on 59th Avenue and Olive, but then it would be, 'They're just another Maryvale band,' or, 'Oh, that jangly Maryvale sound.' The clubs who pay us to play live music just happen to be on Mill Avenue."

Former members of Live Nudes, the Zubia brothers formed the Chimeras in early 1993 along with original Gin Blossoms guitarist and songwriter Doug Hopkins, who died in December of that year. Recently, the band released its self-produced debut, Mistaken for Granted, to local critical acclaim. The Zubias' father was a mariachi musician, and the new disc captures a spacious pop sound peppered with blues and traditional Mexican folk.--Laurie Notaro

The Piersons
Once a disheveled musical aggregation fueled on beer and dissatisfaction, the Piersons have grown into--uh--a disheveled musical aggregation fueled on beer and dissatisfaction. But now this punchy pop band has a sense of purpose and a new disc, Humbucker (Epiphany), to rally for.

Lately, the boys have been treating every Piersons show like it's a fight on the front line--the band even has set lists now. Sitting in the audience, though, the feeling you get is less military precision than loosely choreographed street brawl. "If I had a spare guitar to smash every night, I would," boasts bandleader Patrick "Patti" Sedillo.

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