Jazz artists have to be versatile these days, and Douglas Ewart has taken versatility to new heights. Not only does he play every woodwind instrument he can get his hands on–saxophone, flute, clarinet, double-reed horn–he’s been making his own woodwinds for over two decades. You may well have heard Ewart, Henry Threadgill, the Art Ensemble of Chicago, or a number of others playing Ewart’s woody-sounding, handsomely decorated bamboo flutes; he’s also crafted didgeridoos, those huge, long, low woodwinds that native Australians play. His latest invention is a bamboo saxophone, which must be unique. But he’s also a crafty composer, a master of mobile ensemble textures and improvisation–on alto sax, for instance, his sound is big and richly inflected, his lines are often wildly free, and his rhythms are as sly as Charlie Parker’s. An early graduate of Chicago’s A.A.C.M. School, he’s been living in Japan (where he studied flute making, of course) and Minneapolis in recent years, so this journey back to his hometown is special. He’ll be playing in three different settings: tonight with fellow woodwind aces Light Henry Huff and Edward Wilkerson; Saturday afternoon with the uplifting multipercussionist Hamid Drake, in lecture-demonstrations; Saturday night with Drake and wondrous bassist Malachi Favors. Tonight, 8 PM, Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians, 7058 S. Chappel; 752-2212. Saturday, 1 and 3 PM, Field Museum of Natural History, Roosevelt and Lake Shore Dr.; 922-9410. Saturday, 8 PM, Southend Musicworks, 1313 S. Wabash; 939-2848.

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