Toshiko Akiyoshi began to fuse jazz with “world music” in the early 70s–back before anyone even called it world music–when she applied the lessons she had learned as an American jazzwoman to themes inspired by her girlhood in China. Her compositions reached the listening public by way of the widely acclaimed big band she organized, led, and wrote for–and in which, not incidentally, she played piano. The fame she achieved for her challenging and innovative arrangements largely eclipsed her reputation as a pianist–a sad situation, because Akiyoshi still retains the sure and crystalline touch that originally captivated Oscar Peterson, who heard her in Japan in the 50s and encouraged her to study in the States. Akiyoshi’s bold success in arranging and cross-pollinating jazz must have surprised those accustomed to her earlier work; in groups with Charles Mingus and saxist Charlie Mariano she had taken a relatively circumspect approach to the rugged contours of hard-bop jazz. Nowadays, her trio music is just as surprising–and not just because it offers the refreshing opportunity to again share her musical thoughts in intimate confines. Over the years, Akiyoshi has not refined her style, but rather extended it: her solo piano album of a few years back boasted surging rhythms and powerful voicings, and the range of her solos suggested she had stoked rather than banked the creative fires. An even better omen for her coming engagement is her 1990 trio date Remembering Bud (Evidence), in which she tackled the repertoire of her friend and mentor Bud Powell, the avatar of bop piano: the ingenuity of her solos matched the inventiveness of her arrangements. With the unrelated Washingtons–Peter and Kenny–on bass and drums, she should have little trouble reaching those same heights in Chicago. Tuesday through Thursday, 8 and 10 PM, next Friday and Saturday, May 30 and 31, 9 and 11 PM, and next Sunday, June 1, 4, 8, and 10 PM, Jazz Showcase, 59 W. Grand; 312-670-2473. NEIL TESSER

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): Uncredited photo of Toshiko Akiyoshi.