It’s December, which means it’s time for pianist Laurence Hobgood’s annual preholiday treat at the Green Mill, hooking up his trio with a visiting star soloist. Last year saxist Bob Mintzer made the trek; this year the veteran guitarist Larry Coryell joins the fray, answering the musical question: “How do you spell synergy?” One can scarcely imagine a scenario in which this pairing does not produce musical fireworks. First of all the band will include drummer Paul Wertico (who, when not on the road with the Pat Metheny Group, graces Hobgood’s trio here at home). Wertico, by Coryell’s own admission, helps push his playing to an especially high level: the virtuosic drummer has developed a fusion of buzz-cut precision and jazz’s loose-limbed freedom, and it forms a supportive floor for Coryell’s spiky, tobogganing improvisations. The bond is even stronger between Wertico and Hobgood. The pianist’s playing barrels along with a similar blend of brains and brawn, and the two musicians feed off each other to produce piano solos in Technicolor and CinemaScope. (Bassist Rob Amster anchors Hobgood’s trio with strong time and a noticeable lack of clutter; a busier bassist could easily turn this into a free-for-all.) Hobgood’s expansive, powerful, and superbly constructed solos now place him among the best young jazz pianists, not just in Chicago but throughout the country. Meanwhile his skills as an accompanist–displayed in his work with singer Kurt Elling–should make him an excellent partner for Coryell. Hobgood plays with fury and a smile, a description that would also suit Coryell. And for all of the guitarist’s skewed soul, nuclear energy, and remarkable technique, his wilder flights can often benefit from well-placed structural cues of the sort that Hobgood can provide. Friday, 9 PM, and Saturday, 8 PM, Green Mill, 4802 N. Broadway; 878-5552.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Anna Grossman.