AUBURN – Sacramento-based blues, swing and jump masters Little Charlie & The Nightcats are about to bring central Maine blues fans to their feet.

Led by world-class guitarist Little Charlie Baty and renowned singer-songwriter Rick Estrin, this band can entertain a crowd like no other. The musicians’ style is a fusion of jazz, rock and blues, delivered with a level of energy far above the norm.

The band will appear at Auburn’s Midnight Blues Club on Sunday, March 20, as part of the 2005 Sunday Night Blues Series.

Little Charlie & The Nightcats are not new to the scene, nor are they a modern-day revivalist band attempting to recreate classic songs.

They are truly originators, not copycats. Their utter mastery of American roots music, from Chicago blues to Texas swing, is fueled by Baty’s jaw-dropping guitar acrobatics and Estrin’s vocals.

Baty met Estrin in the early 1970s while Baty was a harmonica-playing University of California at Berkeley student. Since Estrin was already an accomplished player, Baty decided to switch to guitar full-time and the two formed a blues band.

After relocating to Sacramento, Baty quickly emerged as a take-no-prisoners, one-of-a-kind guitarist. With the addition of a drummer and a bass player, the Little Charlie & The Nightcats band was born.

In 1986, the band sent an unsolicited tape to Alligator records. Alligator president Bruce Iglauer was so impressed, he flew to Sacramento to see the band perform. The show came off perfectly and the band now had a recording contract.

Their debut album, “All the Way Crazy” in 1987, was a huge success. Almost immediately, they went from playing small Sacramento blues clubs to performing concerts and festivals across the nation and internationally.

The band’s next albums, 1988’s “Disturbing the Peace,” 1989’s “The Big Break,” 1991’s “Captured Live,” 1992’s “Night Vision,” 1995’s “Straight Up” and 1998’s “Shadow of the Blues” solidified their reputation as an adventurous and sophisticated blues bands.

The band’s latest album, “That’s Big,” was released in 2002. It covers an array of sounds and styles. The songs display a rootsy inventiveness that’s a bit more serious than some of their past material.

On instrumental tracks “Bluto’s Back” and “Bayview Jump,” Baty’s guitar prowess comes through loud and clear.

“That’s Big” garnered reviews and features in The Chicago Tribune, The New York Post, The Washington Post, The Houston Chronicle, GuitarOne, Guitar Player and several other national and regional publications.

The band was also featured in a 20-minute interview and performance segment on NPR’s “Weekend Edition.”

The Midnight Blues Club and Restaurant is in downtown Auburn at 34 Court St.

Tickets for all Sunday Night Blues Series shows are $15, with an offer of $3 off any entree.

Shows start promptly at 7 p.m. and conclude at 10 p.m. To reserve seats, please call the club at 783-9600. For more information, visit www.3clubs.com


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