DON BENNETT SEPTET
For Chicago jazz pianist Don Bennett, every set is equal parts work and play, both an exercise in improvisational art and an onstage party. Bennett’s punchy rhythms stomp and swagger, and though his burly flamboyance remains his greatest strength, he’s also learned to value lacy swirls and a feather touch. He recorded his most recent album, the 1997 trio date Simplexity (Candid), while living in Amsterdam, and the change of scenery clearly did him good: he tactfully integrates showy arpeggios, modal improvising, and a melodicism that borrows from Herbie Hancock’s mid-60s Blue Note dates. Like most pianists, Bennett can shine in a trio or quartet; unlike many, he reaches full power when he can bounce off the blocky chords and brassy drive of a horn section. Once again a Chi-town resident, he’ll get more than his share of inspiration from this mostly local band: it’s got horns stacked four high, including Malachi Thompson on trumpet, Jeff Marx on tenor, and the galvanizing Jesse Davis, who has outgrown his idolatry of Charlie Parker to embrace the complex harmonic implications of the late 1960s, on alto. The fourth horn man is a Croatian-born Dutchman, Domagoy Ralasic, a meaty tenor player who will switch to soprano sax and bass clarinet in this band; his extra colors should stoke Bennett’s smoldering interest in arranging for small groups. 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): uncredited photo.