As the New Yorker notes, Leonard Chess and his brother Phil recorded some of the greatest Mississippi Delta musicians who rode the Illinois Central Railroad from New Orleans to Chicago.
Now, Leonard’s son Marshall is behind the revival of Chess Records. Marshall’s latest project is New Moves, an album of Chess Records classics reinterpreted by a supergroup that includes the Stones’ backing vocalist Bernard Fowler, the guitarist Skip (Little Axe) MacDonald, and the hip-hop drummer Keith Leblanc, formerly the house session man for Sugar Hill Records.
The tracks on New Moves reflect both the Chess legacy and Marshall’s journey to make peace with it. The project is co-produced with his son, Jamar.
In 1967, he started his own Chess imprint, Cadet Concept, to create the sound of Chess’s future: “psychedelic blues.” The next year, Cadet released a Muddy Waters album with wah-wah and fuzz pedals. The old-school aficionados—“blues Nazis,” Marshall calls them—hated it. Howlin’ Wolf, another era-defining Chess artist, called his own psychedelic-blues album “dog shit.” But a generation of hip-hop artists, including Public Enemy’s Chuck D, were later inspired by the new sound.