It would be presumptuous to start enumerating the virtues of John Birks Gillespie (he of the upturned horn); the man who, with Charlie Parker, discovered bebop almost 50 years ago remains one of the music’s most dynamic trumpeters (at the age of 71), and that says plenty. But I could go on at length about his quintet, which is easily the best small band Gillespie has led in 15 years. Ignacio Berroa, a hard-driving one-man percussion section, teams with bassist John Lee to support the liquidy chords of guitarist Ed Cherry. Cherry’s acid-tinged tone and thoroughly modern note choices serve the first notice that this ain’t your classic bebop aggregation, and that assessment is nailed by the contributions of the pioneering free-jazz improviser Sam Rivers (on tenor and flute). When Rivers joined Diz a couple years ago, he seemed reverent and tentative, seemingly sublimating his own music to the rules of bebop; now he’s settled in, loosened up, and in full command of a playful, sometimes woolly, always unique perspective on the music’s past and present. In other words, he sounds just like Sam Rivers, which both challenges and enhances Gillespies leadership. Tonight through Sunday, Joe Segal’s Jazz Showcase, Blackstone Hotel, 636 S. Michigan; 427-4300.

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