As the most prominent trombonist in the bebop revolution, J.J. Johnson brought an unprecedented level of dexterity, smoothness, and fluidity to the instrument: some say he invented the bop ‘bone. Still his slinky 50s group with fellow tailgater Kai Winding–Jay and Kai–hinted at other interests, and at the age of 71 he continues to investigate new directions and untapped possibilities with a level of dedication that should embarrass some of the neocon baby boppers. His latest record, Tangence (Verve), features big orchestrations by Robert Farnon, but this quintet date at the Jazz Showcase will likely be in the vein of 1992’s acclaimed Let’s Hang Out (Verve), which emphasized Johnson’s fine writing–he has a penchant for putting together exciting multisectioned suites–and his still smokin’ slide. He’ll be joined by strong tenor saxophonist Dan Faulk, pianist Geoff Keezer, bassist Rufus Reid, and drummer Bruce Cox. A proud part of the music’s heritage, Johnson is proof positive that mainstream jazz can only stay alive if it keeps moving. Through Sunday, Joe Segal’s Jazz Showcase, Blackstone Hotel, 636 S. Michigan; 427-4846.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): Photo/Jean-Marc Lubrano.