When jazz tenor sax pioneer Bud Freeman resettled in his hometown, Chicago, in 1981, he formed a quintet that proved one of the very best bands of his long, long career. Since he’s spent his life playing swing and Dixieland, three of his choices were obvious: swingmasters Bobby Roberts, a guitarist with a gift for bright, gracefully flowing lyricism; John Bany, the personification of musical elegance and one of Chicago’s favorite bassists; and the busy, nervous drummer Barrett Deems, like Freeman a veteran of the big-band era. The surprise choice, and the key to the group’s special spirit, was Stu Katz, who more than any other Chicago pianist has stayed true to the hard-edged, aggressive essence of bebop down through the decades–the bite, the rhythmic vitality, the melodic fertility of his music make him an imposing figure indeed. Together the four created a liberated, soaring music that challenged Freeman to his utmost in swing. In honor of the jazz giant, who died just two months ago, they’ll reunite tonight for a “Tribute to Bud Freeman: Music & Memories.” It’s free, sponsored by the Jazz Institute of Chicago, and guest musicians and speakers are promised. Wednesday, 6:30-8:30 PM, Crystal Ballroom, Blackstone Hotel, 636 S. Michigan; 427-1676.

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