The post-Marsalis era didn’t introduce the idea of second-generation jazzmen; it just seems that way, thanks to the current proliferation of talented offspring. But pianist Kenny Drew Jr.–whose piano-playing father lent his silky touch and uncluttered thinking to John Coltrane’s legendary Blue Train album–stands above most of the pack, for several reasons. These include issues of technique and drive, both of which he has in abundance, and of sensitive keyboard arranging and imaginative use of the instrument’s colors, both inherited from his father; he also knows better than many how to straddle the line between public performance and private musical exploration. (in performance he follows his muse where she leads, but he’s also happy to let us tag along.) Drew is a little older than the other second-generation players, and I think that his maturity stands at the heart of his salient musical virtues: his playing has a focus and direction that bespeak his years, and his more readily analyzable strengths stem from this quality. He starts with bebop, but his own compositions incorporate other idioms; he can also summon up almost unexpectedly pastoral textures in which his classical training shows through. Drew’s last Chicago appearance proved delightful, if at times a bit stiff–a largely seamless web of tantalizing music. Tuesday through next Sunday, July 11, Joe Segal’s Jazz Showcase, Blackstone Hotel, 636 S. Michigan; 427-4846.

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