One minute, it seems, Billy Childs was stuffing electric-piano fills into holes in Freddie Hubbard’s music; you turn around and–surprise–he’s writing his own good tunes, he’s put together a solid quartet, and he’s soloing with the easy power of a young Herbie Hancock. In the last year and a half, thanks to two head-turning albums under his own name, Childs has emerged as an especially engaging neo-bopper: his grasp of and respect for traditional elements are obvious, but his ability to stir in modern spices–California cool pop, Philly funk, synthesizers, authentic Latin rhythms–lifts him out of the pack. Mostly I like the integrity Childs’s music, which underlies and strengthens whatever fusion he chooses to effect. His sturdy, pulsing band includes Bob Shepard on saxes and flute, the excellent (if unheralded) bassist Tony Dumas, and Mike Clark, a crackling young drummer with a burgeoning reputation. Tonight and Saturday, the Bulls, 1916 N. Lincoln Park West; 337-3000.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Neil Ricklen.