As a rule, I tend to shy away from groups like this–or rather, from the groups with which people might easily confuse the Gephart-Long band. At first glimpse, this quartet seems to comfortably sail the seas of “contemporary” jazz, as saxophonist Brian Gephart’s throaty tenor and pliant soprano pilot the band around that idiom’s easy edges. Indeed, a few of the tracks on the new CD (Water Logic, issued by the band itself) would probably float with the WNUA audience. But even these songs hold interest for those of us who like our music in the foreground; and the rest of the album–which includes blues and bebop–reveals the long, strong jazz roots of each player. Like so many modern saxophonists, Gephart has adapted the bright hard sound of Michael Brecker, and he can play with all the glibness of better-known colleagues. But Gephart often digs beneath that veneer, a tendency that can be ascribed to the band as a whole. Bob Long has developed into a tastefully aggressive accompanist and a fluent soloist in his 15 years on the Chicago scene, and bassist Ken Haebich and drummer Mark Ott provide a versatile, flexible rhythmic base that can handle music drawn from both the classic mainstream and postbop currents. This quartet won’t set the world on fire; but with its solid original repertoire and a clearly audible rapport developed over the last five years, it can offer an evening of earnest and quite respectable mid-90s jazz. Tuesday through Thursday, 8:30 PM, and next Friday and Saturday, November 22 and 23, 9:30 PM, Metropole Lounge, Fairmont Hotel, Illinois Center, 200 N. Columbus; 312-565-8000 or 312-559-1212.


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