Progress-report time at the Showcase, as Philip and Winard Harper bring their terrifically talented but mystifyingly flawed sextet back to Chicago. Their last visit offered several great moments, but it lacked the consistently crisp playing, as well as the tracer-bullet purposefulness, that define great bands–qualities one should expect from this brother act of several years’ standing (and the very qualities that illuminated Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers, the original model for the Harpers). Since their last appearance here, the Harpers have released an eclectic album (You Can Hide Within the Music, on Verve) that uses guest solos and vocals; yet the album’s strength lies in those tracks that feature the basic band plunging into the hard- and postbop songbook. They seem to coalesce around such material, which frames and highlights the band’s contrasting solo styles–from trumpeter Philip Harper’s buttery tone and steel-trap control to the raw forcefulness of alto saxist Justin Robinson to the limber litheness of pianist Roy Gallon. The solos, and Winard Harper’s daredevil drumming, would command attention in any case. But just as compelling is the brothers’ continuing attempt to establish a bop-styled band without the correspondent constricting exactitude found among so many of their contemporaries. Tonight and Saturday, 9 and 11 PM, and Sunday, 4, 8, and 10 PM, Joe Segal’s Jazz Showcase, Blackstone Hotel, 636 S. Michigan; 427-4846.

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