John Campbell’s home for the weekend. This doesn’t scan quite as well as, say, “Mackie’s back in town,” but it packs at least an equal wallop: even though he moved to New York in 1984, working regularly with Mel Torme and with Terry Gibbs’s group, he remains among the most versatile and popular Chicago pianists of recent years. With a little practice, you can almost recognize Campbell just from the sound he pulls from the piano. Plenty of modern pianists–even the good ones–settle for a relatively flat touch, compressing the music into something almost two-dimensional. But Campbell (in the manner exemplified by the great beboppers) aligns strength and speed, striking a balance with which he gives each note specific weight and power at any tempo. An unabashed melodist–and a frequently inspired one–Campbell combines wit, imagination, and an unimpeachable artistic authority, celebrating these classic virtues of improvisation with more elan than many of his generation. Like Bill Evans–a strong influence (but not his Svengali)–Campbell revels in the trio setting; this weekend features bassist Kelly Sill and drummer Joel Spencer, reassembling the locally famous band that’s as tight and springy as a new trampoline. Tonight and Saturday, the Bulls, 1916 N. Lincoln Park West; 337-3000.

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