ED THIGPEN QUARTET WITH ANTONIO HART
Drummer Ed Thigpen’s last few appearances in Chicago have only confirmed what audiences understood from his first noteworthy appearances in Chicago, with Oscar Peterson in the 50s and early 60s: with his immaculate stick work and split-second accents, he defines tasteful drumming without sacrificing the fluid dynamics and deep groove that give jazz much of its fire. Thigpen’s grasp of African and Caribbean rhythms reflects both instinct and study; in his hands, they become flexible elements of a larger aesthetic rather than metric costume changes for this or that particular tune. A favorite haunt of Peterson’s trio was the Chicago supper club London House, and a recent five-disc set, The London House Sessions (Verve), which documents a two-week engagement in the summer of ’61, shows Thigpen in all his youthful splendor. But in the last two decades, he has easily slipped into the role of elder statesman, whose responsibilities include the sponsorship of fresh talent. In that capacity he’ll bring 28-year-old saxist Antonio Hart with him to Chicago. Hart hit the scene in 1990 as Roy Hargrove’s alter ego in the trumpeter’s first quintet, and he first impressed me as competent, prepared, and derivative. But with each of his own albums he has found another bit of his own voice. Last year’s Here I Stand (Impulse) places his alto in a variety of contexts, including an organ trio, a five-horn octet, and the sort of Latin-jazz conjunto that paid his bills a few years back. In every case, Hart’s ripe, round tone finds its mark, and he takes into hand the runaway-train energy that distinguished Cannonball Adderley and John Coltrane in the early 60s. On a tune called “The Community,” he unleashes a vivid, punishing solo that last week earned him an unexpected but wholly deserved Grammy nomination. Behind him, Thigpen will steer the Chicago rhythm section he’s worked with often enough to consider his own, bassist Larry Gray and pianist Willie Pickens. Friday and Saturday, 9 and 11 PM, and Sunday, 4, 8, and 10 PM, Jazz Showcase, 59 W. Grand; 312-670-2473. NEIL TESSER
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): Ed Thigpen/ Antonio Hart photos.