I’ll make this simple: either you spend the weekend listening to the best mainstream saxist of his generation, or you don’t. Chris Potter has yet to turn 27, but the maturity of his improvising has been obvious since he joined the late Red Rodney’s band as a teenager. More important, though, Potter’s music–unlike that of several more famous contemporaries–has not stood still. With each album he has taken either a small step or a significant leap toward expanding the range of both his material and his playing; the latest, titled Unspoken (Concord), matched his tenor and soprano with three Miles Davis alumni–guitarist John Scofield, bassist Dave Holland, and drummer Jack DeJohnette, each a giant presence in his own right–and Potter left little doubt that he belongs in the company he’s keeping. I often end up comparing Potter with the 1950s-model Sonny Rollins, but never because he sounds like Rollins or tries to imitate him; rather, it’s because Potter exhibits such authority as he combines soaring improvisational logic with a meaty sound–brains and brawn–in a manner that Rollins epitomized and that few saxophonists have managed since. This weekend’s sets will have something else going for them: they mark the return of pianist John Campbell. When he moved to New York in the mid-80s, Campbell was keenly missed; he took with him a lively, sometimes breathtaking, and marvelously coherent approach to modern jazz piano, in which the spirit of Bill Evans looms large but does not overpower. Campbell’s leave also meant the breakup of his trio, featuring Kelly Sill and Joel Spencer–a group that deserved but never received national attention. This gig, which reunites him with Sill and Spencer, is Campbell’s first since moving back to Chicago over the summer, and it gives hometown listeners the chance to start making up for time lost. Friday, 9 PM, and Saturday, 8 PM, Green Mill, 4802 N. Broadway; 773-878-5552. Neil Tesser
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo by David Lubarsky.