One of Chicago’s special contributions to the jazz heritage is a line of unique bassists that stretches from the earliest years of the art form up to today. Most famous are probably Milt Hinton in the swing era, Wilbur Ware in the bop era, Malachi Favors and Fred Hopkins today; all have played or are playing bass characterized by elastic swing, sophisticated harmonies that grow from deep rich folk song soil, and solo lines that rise from rhythmic impulses. But most of all, they’re true ensemble players (“Let’s play this music together,” Ware used to say). This instinct for ensemble empathy has made ex-Chicagoan Hopkins one of the most in-demand bassists of the present day: his swing is urgent, he’s versatile in virtually all contemporary idioms, and he’s highly responsive, thoroughly committed to his musical mates. Cellist Diedre Murray plays busy lines that move toward distant, demonic flights, and she seems to need the weight and straight-ahead movement of Hopkins; the fine drummer Newman Baker adds further density to this music. All were part of Henry Threadgill’s powerful Sextett, and as a trio they advance much of the thick interplay and ideas–spiky and abstract, or dark and introspective, or hard-driving and tough–that the Sextett used to explore, though with little of Threadgill’s irony. For their explorations of string sonorities and for their repertoire, this is a trio that certainly should be heard. Tonight and Saturday, 8 PM, Southend Musicworks, 1313 S. Wabash; 939-2848.

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