What’s special about pianist Jodie Christian is that he’s a jack of all trades–no, a master of all trades. Jazz is demanding–the player must simultaneously create, interpret, and complement his fellow musicians–and it’s no wonder that versatility among several jazz disciplines usually comes at the expense of distinctive character. Christian, however, forged his bright, complex melodies in the fires of ’50s and ’60s hard bop; then his quick, acid-edged harmonic responses inspired swing soloists (he always plays on Benny Carter’s Chicago appearances, for example) and cool jazzmen (he’s been a startling counterpoint to Lee Konitz and a surprising Dewey Redman). In recent years he’s added a new dimension by working with that boldest of free jazz saxophonists, Roscoe Mitchell, who also guests on Christian’s first, soon-to-be-issued album on Delmark Records. Christian almost always works as a sideman, and he and Von Freeman always seem to bring out the best in each other, maybe because Freeman’s tenor sax solos include swing, bop, mellow, hot, inside, and outside jazz–all functions of the most vividly dramatic sense of musical tension this side of Sonny Rollins. With Dennis Carroll on bass and Mike Raynor on drums. Saturday, Bop Shop, 1807 W. Division; 235-3232.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photos/Lauren Deutsch, Bruce Powell.