Jazz Showcase impresario Joe Segal usually celebrates his April 24 birthday by repatriating Chicago native Johnny Griffin, also born on the 24th, from the tenor saxist’s home in France. But this year, Segal’s 75th, Griffin is unavailable, and in booking a replacement act Segal has pulled out all the stops: he’s invited not one but four far-flung former midwesterners for his weeklong birthday bash, assembling a lineup that should rival some of the better Jazz Messengers bands in power, finesse, and imagination. Detroit-born trombonist Curtis Fuller–who actually did work with Blakey’s Messengers from 1961 to ’65, after his appearance on John Coltrane’s iconic album Blue Train–has built his barreling, blustery style on the bebop foundation of J.J. Johnson. After a move to New York in 1957 he became the preeminent hard-bop and soul-jazz slide man, and he still offers a great combination of grit and quickness. Trumpeter Conte Candoli was born in Indiana, but he’s long been a fixture of the LA scene: in the mid-50s he anchored that city’s legendary Lighthouse All-Stars, and in the 70s and 80s he led the trumpet section in Doc Severinsen’s Tonight Show band. Candoli enjoys a reputation as a musician’s musician, employing his bright, strong tone with plenty of bite and more sensitivity than you’d expect. Ed Thigpen, born in Chicago and now a resident of Copenhagen, rose to prominence as the remarkably complete drummer–tasteful as well as fiery–in Oscar Peterson’s great trio of the 50s and 60s; with each return visit he confirms the superb musicianship on his own albums of the 90s. Florida-based multi-instrumentalist Ira Sullivan–a Chicagoan for much of the 50s, and one of the first musicians Segal presented–is probably the most familiar of these artists to local listeners, by virtue of his regular stopovers on his former turf. Count on him to blend his buff tenor into the front line, but also to spend at least one tune per set joining Candoli on trumpet–and in general to direct the flow of the music with his restless curiosity about what might sound good where. Two Chicago musicians of national caliber–pianist Larry Novak and bassist Larry Gray–round out the sextet. Wear asbestos. Tuesday through Thursday, April 24 through 26, 8 and 10 PM, next Friday and Saturday, April 27 and 28, 9 and 11 PM, and next Sunday, April 29, 4, 8, and 10 PM, Jazz Showcase, 59 W. Grand; 312-670-2473. Local drummer Robert Shy fills in for Thigpen on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday.


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