The mesmerizing vibraphonist Gary Burton has a well-earned reputation for introducing young musicians to the jazz audience–saxist Donny McCaslin, pianist Makoto Ozone, guitarists Larry Coryell and Pat Metheny–but even in such company guitarist Julian Lage stands out. Barely 15 when he played on Burton’s current release, Generations (Concord), Lage could already boast a mature and inventive solo concept to match his unquestionable technique; his command of improvisatory form and narrative arc was practically Mozartean at the time of those sessions, and I can’t wait to hear how he’s grown in the year since. And the youth movement in this band doesn’t end with the guitarist. Burton–who recently retired from his post as acting head of Boston’s Berklee College of Music–has filled the lineup with fresh-faced twentysomethings, all of them (like Lage) making their Chicago debuts. The most highly touted is a 26-year-old Ukraine-born pianist, Vadim Neselovskyi. Bassist Luques Curtis and drummer James Williams, both 21, are also both African-American. This is noteworthy: Perhaps in part because Burton’s music is famously removed from traditional blues roots, few black jazz musicians of his era have worked in his groups. But as genre boundaries have shifted and younger players have grown up with jazz influenced by Burton and his contemporaries, he’s found common ground on disc with prominent black artists like Mulgrew Miller and Christian McBride. These shows will feature material from the terrific Generations alongside previews of Next Generation, due in spring 2005–which the group finished recording only last week. Friday 11/12, 9 and 11 PM, Jazz Showcase, 59 W. Grand, 312-670-2473, $25. See also Saturday and Sunday.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Michael Jackson.