Hugh Ragin Credit: Andy Newcombe

He’s made only a handful of recordings under his own name, but trumpeter Hugh Ragin has been a forceful presence in American free jazz for nearly four decades, among other things as a trusted sideman to David Murray. The Texas native’s last album, 2004’s Revelation (Justin Time), is a deeply satisfying inside-out quartet recording propelled by the elastic rhythm section of bassist William Parker and drummer Hamid Drake, Israeli reedist Assif Tsahar sharing the front line with Ragin. At one point in the early 80s, the trumpeter toured with high-pitched big-band brass icon Maynard Ferguson—a testament to the former’s mainstream chops—and however far out he pushes his playing now, he retains sharp melodic instincts and a rich, full-bodied sound. Ragin last performed in Chicago in 2015 as part of a series of overlapping trios presented by Roscoe Mitchell in conjunction with the Museum of Contemporary Art’s “Freedom Principle” exhibition. A forthcoming recording of that encounter, Bells for the South Side (ECM), is due next month, and it reinforces my memory of the trumpeter’s malleable, tuneful contributions—whether playing in a trio with Mitchell and Tyshawn Sorey or in larger combined settings, he brings a stately elegance to passages of chamberlike austerity and an ebullient buoyancy to more extroverted moments. Tonight he gives a rare performance under his own name, fronting a local band with reedist Ernest Dawkins, bassist Junius Paul, and drummer Vincent Davis.   v