Few players embody Chicago Underground maestro Rob Mazurek’s conception of “total music” more than trumpeter Wadada Leo Smith. With drummer Jack DeJohnette, bassist Malachi Favors, and pianist Anthony Davis on last year’s superb Golden Quartet (Tzadik), he blows down the house with the blustery opener, “DeJohnette,” then plants a Zen garden on the site with the tender, lyrical, and profoundly economical ballad “Harumi.” On his dramatic 1972 solo recording, Creative Music–1, he demonstrated his mastery of dynamics and extended technique; more recently, as on 1999’s Light Upon Light (Tzadik), he’s focused on compositions that explore electronics as well as conventional instrumentation. And though he only lived in Chicago briefly, in the 60s, he became an integral member of the AACM, recording classics of creative music with folks like Anthony Braxton, Roscoe Mitchell, and Leroy Jenkins. At various times throughout his career, he’s experimented with mixing free jazz and reggae–a combination that might strike sparks when Smith plays duets this weekend with Hamid Drake, a fantastic reggae and jazz player and one of those rare drummers who can stretch with the broadest of collaborators without ever abandoning the pulse. It’s unlikely that the two will restrict themselves to any one bag–they also share boundless energy and a voracious interest in world music. Their set caps off the final night of the Empty Bottle’s annual Festival of Jazz and Improvised Music; also on the bill are Holz Für Europa–improvising reedists Wolfgang Fuchs, Peter van Bergen, and Hans Koch–and a trio with local reedist Guillermo Gregorio, local keyboardist Jim Baker, and Swedish guitarist David Stackenas. Saturday, April 21, 10 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western; 773-276-3600.


Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photos/Yuki Mochizuki/Michael Jackson.