From his very first recordings–with bands led by his uncle, pianist James Williams–Memphis-born drummer Tony Reedus has offered listeners a tight beat and no-nonsense swing derived from classic hard-bop models like Art Blakey, Louis Hayes, Philly Joe Jones, and Art Taylor. Reedus’s drive, along with his explosive solo style and good command of drum-kit colors, has created a reasonable demand for his services in the New York mainstream: he’s worked regularly with Art Farmer, Freddie Hubbard, Bobby Hutcherson, and Joanne Brackeen, to name a few. But a drummer, the guy at the back of the bandstand, usually needs more than drive to lead his own group: a flair for composition (a la Roy Haynes or Louie Bellson), a unique approach to the instrument (Max Roach, Elvin Jones), or both (Tony Williams, Ronald Shannon Jackson). Reedus doesn’t seem to have either of those things–he hasn’t changed the face of drumming, and on his first three discs as a leader he’s credited with only two tunes–but like Blakey he knows how to assemble a band and shape its music. The lineup of the quartet he leads here (aka “Frontiers”) features some better-known movers and shakers: In the rhythm section there’s John Patitucci, a splashy virtuoso on acoustic and electric bass who cut his teeth on Chick Corea’s high-energy melodies in the late 80s; he’s also a prolific songwriter, and I’d guess that a couple of his heartfelt ballads will show up on the set lists. On guitar is John Abercrombie, the pioneering romanticist who’s left his mark on John Scofield and Pat Metheny; his gig with Charles Lloyd at the Jazz Showcase last spring made my ten-best list for the year. And to front the band Reedus has engaged Ravi Coltrane (yes, son of John), who’s been slowly evolving into a passionate and engrossing tenor man. Reedus’s 1996 disc, Minor Thang (Criss Cross), features different players in the same instrumentation, but the chemistry among his present personnel should produce a far more complex reaction. Tuesday and Wednesday, 8 and 10 PM, Jazz Showcase, 59 W. Grand; 312-670-2473.

Neil Tesser