Any appearance by saxophonist Joe Lovano promises excitement and power; this one offers as an added fillip the U.S. nightclub premiere of his spectacular new band. At its center sits Billy Hart, one of the most imaginative and sensitive drummers of jazz’s last two decades: going back to Herbie Hancock’s early-70s electric combo, Hart has been spicing his accompaniment with ideas as modern as science, all the while plugged into a pulse older than jazz. Next to him stands bassist Anthony Cox, whose dark sonic footprint and flowing rhythm lines have placed him in heavy demand. Up front, trumpeter Tom Harrell–author of a brand-new CD, Upswing (on Chesky)–remains an especially concise and logical improviser, attacking the inner challenges of each song with almost insouciant insight and a strong, slightly pinched tone. He and Lovano have worked together in various contexts for over a decade, and their mutual respect is evident in the way the trumpeter’s clear-cut lines complement Lovano’s busy and muscular solo turns. Most recently heard with John Scofield’s quartet, Lovano plays a soul-rich alto; on tenor, his main horn, he has a burry, textured sound that shames the metallic monotone of too many contemporary players. Lovano’s style represents a summation (but not a hodgepodge) of post-Coltrane saxophone styles; that, along with his agile improvisational mind and the lineup he’s assembled, guarantees fireworks. Friday 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/Carol Friedman.