Marshall Vente wears all his hats with equal flair: keyboardist, composer, arranger, even DJ (he hosts a Brazilian-music program on WDCB). He also leads five ensembles on a regular basis, but this little big band, now in its 20th year, is the granddaddy. Don’t let the name fool you: it’s really Vente’s Project Nine Plus (originally a nonet, it’s since grown to an even dozen), gussied up with premillennial nomenclature. Lately the Project has been performing less and less frequently, due to the expense and logistics of booking a large group. That’s a shame, but it makes sightings of the ensemble all the more noteworthy. Vente’s compositions balance the deep hues of Thad Jones, the pastels of Gil Evans (with whom Vente studied), and the neon flares of fusion and pop. He hasn’t written any music especially for this occasion, but he could easily delve into the Project’s brimming book to program pieces it hasn’t played in ten or twelve years, and they’d sound brand-new to most of us. Project 99’s set, on Friday, promises to be a highlight of the sixth annual Marshall Vente Jazz Festival, which Vente himself organizes; the other main draw that night is a rare matchup of the marvelous but underexposed saxist Ron Dewar with pianist Gene Esposito’s trio. Saturday’s all-tropical bill pivots on the Brazilian duo of guitarist Romero Lubambo and pianist Cesar Camargo Mariano, who’s making his Chicago debut. Mariano has played behind virtually every major singer of the modern MPB (musica popular brasileira) movement, including Milton Nascimento, Ivan Lins, Gal Costa, and most significantly the late Elis Regina; his densely stacked chords and kaleidoscopic arpeggios have left an indelible mark on many more of his countrymen. Lubambo, a superb improviser, commands greater recognition in the U.S. thanks to several stateside recordings that spotlight his busy but impeccable jazz lines and inventive rhythms. Sunday afternoon’s show features various combinations drawn from the weekend’s extensive cast and is open to all ages. Friday and Saturday, 8 PM, and Sunday, 3 PM, Jazz Showcase, 59 W. Grand; 312-670-2473 or 630-942-4200.


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