With his debut album just hitting the racks and two decades of jazz dues all paid up, vibist Jim Cooper is on the verge of establishing himself among Chicago’s jazz perennials. His unquestioned control of the mainstream idiom has made him a valued sideman in a variety of contexts; when he leads his own groups, the more flamboyant leaps and harmonic boundary-bashing that characterize Bobby Hutcherson’s music come to the fore. Perhaps Cooper’s greatest asset, though–above his sure-handed absorption of influences, above his melodic imaginativeness–is his solid handle on that hard-driving, meat-and-potatoes idiom known as Chicago jazz. Cooper punishes a straight four beat rhythm just about as well as you could expect, with combustible solos that nonetheless remain rooted to the pulse. Nothing tricky (like the new New Orleans sound), nothing overly glossy (like the LA studio sound), and nothing so sophisticated that it’s lost touch with the streets: Chicago’s jazz legacy is a good deal more basic, and Cooper has it down. His quartet includes the excellent, and too little heard, pianist Larry Luchowski, whose dense harmonies nicely frame the vibraphone’s shimmer. Tonight, Bop Shop, 1807 W. Division; 235-3232.

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