The life of a bar musician isn't exactly easy. Sure, there are the blues, the booze and the broads (as the saying goes), but there are also long, late hours and night after night of playing your fingers right down to the knuckles.

So what do several of the area's better known bar musicians do when, at long last, they finally get some time off? Why, form a group of their own and play some more.

Last night at Desperado's (where they will also be appearing tonight), the Cheek to Cheek All Stars took a brief vacation from their respective groups and came together for an evening of good cheer and better blues. The songs were simple and straightforward (all the better for some nifty jamming) and some of the hot riffs are probably still bouncing off the walls.

As is usually the case when friends play, there was more a feeling of camaraderie than competition. Nevertheless, some stood out more than others. Drummer Pete Ragusa and bassist Steve Wolfe delivered rhythms as solid as Gibraltar, adding just the right accents and touches to the rockers and the shuffles. And guitarist Jim Thackery displayed a wry wit and imagination that were a constant source of surprise and delight. Not bad for a picker who doesn't hail from Chicago or Texas.

The Cheek to Cheek All Stars should take this kind of break more often -- for their listeners as well as themselves.