New York’s Claire Daly brings a woman’s touch to the baritone sax–and that statement’s not the sexist no-brainer it sounds like. Gerry Mulligan, the most famous player of the dark and blustery baritone, essentially feminized the instrument in the 50s by softening its attack, refining its timbre, and playing lines then considered more appropriate to lighter horns–but Daly’s style has little in common with his. And of course what counts as “feminine” has changed a lot since the 50s too. Daly doesn’t trifle with frills or coquettishness; instead her playing lends strength to her sidemen and glows with self-confidence. She has an innate connection with the big horn: it fits her uncluttered approach to improvisation, and she wrings the maximum effect from modulations in intensity between one note and the next. Daly plays with a light-footed swing, subtler than that of models like Ronnie Cuber or Pepper Adams (it’s the one thing she has in common with Mulligan), but when shechooses to rock from the heels, she can get the horn booting with the best of them. Her third disc, Heaven Help Us All (Daly Bread), released last week, roams further afield than its predecessors: in among the standards you’ll find a smattering of beatboxing and a cover of the Stevie Wonder title tune with spoken word by poet Kirpal Gordon (who’s joining Daly on the cross-country tour she kicks off tonight). Friday 17 and Saturday 18, 9 PM, Green Mill, 4802 N. Broadway, 773-878-5552, $10. See also Saturday.

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