Simply put, Don Byron is the greatest living jazz clarinetist. But don’t think Benny Goodman, Artie Shaw, or Buddy DeFranco; Byron’s a postmodernist on the level of the late pioneer John Carter, emboldening the instrument’s easy grace with a thorough assault on difficult sounds and textures. Like Henry Threadgill, Byron forges new territory as a composer by disassembling, recombining, and assimilating all sorts of different musics under the vague banner called jazz. He’s worked with many of jazz’s most important practitioners–Anthony Braxton, Marilyn Crispell, Bill Frisell, Cassandra Wilson, Hamiet Bluiett, and David Murray, among others–but his own wide-ranging projects reveal his hidden depths. On Tuskegee Experiments, a challenging 1992 collection of postfree compositions, Byron displayed his knowledge of basics, radically attacking everything from Ellington to Schumann along with a hefty load of striking original material. His unexpected follow-up was the charming Don Byron Plays the Music of Mickey Katz, and Byron’s adeptness at Katz’s demanding style–Katz was a protege of Spike Jones, who applied cornball shtick to klezmer music–cast his talents in a decidedly different light. His latest album, for which this group is named, sets his music amid Latin rhythms. Byron’s most coherent, impressive work, it uses salsa as a launching pad for fierce improvisations that reach out all over the globe. Trumpeter James Zoller, the impressive pianist Edsel Gomez, bassist Leo Traversa, drummer Johnny Andrews, and legendary congalero Milton Cardona perform with Byron. Saturday, 9 and 11 PM, HotHouse, 1565 N. Milwaukee; 235-2334.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): Photo/Cori Wells Braun.