Tenor saxophonist Mark Turner and guitarist Kurt Rosenwinkel have been regularly playing in each other’s groups since they attended the Berklee College of Music back in the 80s, and they’ve developed an unspoken musical empathy that’s impossible to miss. They’re both superb melodists, making tricky stretches seem effortlessly graceful, particularly in the beguiling precision of their unison lines, and perpetually shifting between a myriad of harmonic possibilities. The way Turner chooses chords in his originals gives his solos a gently deployed tension, and his arrangements–for “Nefertiti” by Wayne Shorter or “Jesus Maria” by Carla Bley, for example, both on Ballad Session (Warner Brothers, 2000)–continually tweak the originals’ familiar emotional pull. John Coltrane remains a pervasive influence on Turner’s beautiful sound, but over the last decade his playing has gradually shifted toward the elegance and sophistication of cooler practitioners like Stan Getz and Warne Marsh; and while he’s one of the most exciting and distinctive straight-ahead saxists in New York, he’s just as capable taking things out. Rosenwinkel’s early guitar influences included Pat Metheny, John Scofield, and Bill Frisell, and you can still hear them in his effects-kissed playing on the recent The Next Step (Verve). His lovely originals on that album exploit the tight ensemble approach of his quartet–featuring Turner, bassist Ben Street, and drummer Jeff Ballard, which is the lineup playing here. The music is filled with shadowy effects, from the way Turner’s contrapuntal lines interlock with the guitarist’s rapid melodic flurries to the way Rosenwinkel underlines his own solos with sweet, wordless vocals. The deft rhythm section percolates, both in sync with and against the grain of all that twisty foreground material, giving the music a rigorous but gorgeous richness. The two leaders will both play material from their own recordings. Tuesday, March 27, 8 PM, Metropolis Performing Arts Centre, 111 W. Campbell, Arlington Heights; 847-577-2121. Wednesday, March 28, 7:30 PM, Bennett-Gordon Hall, Ravinia Festival, Green Bay and Lake Cook Rds., Highland Park; 847-266-5100. Thursday, March 29, 7:30 PM, DuSable Museum of African American History, 740 E. 56th Pl.; 773-947-0600.


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