In his increasingly frequent Chicago performances the nervy Swedish saxophonist Mats Gustafsson has demonstrated an utterly natural flexibility. I say natural because he never seems to be flaunting his range–he’s simply blessed with a rare mix of empathy and raw skill. Recent recordings reveal yet other sides of his playing: Opus Apus (LJ), a terrific trio album with Anders and Christian Jormin, shows his beautiful lyricism, and a new duo recording with Hamid Drake, For Don Cherry (Okka Disk), highlights a certain delicacy. The trio Gustafsson performs with this week showcases his dazzling intuitiveness. Tensile percussionist Raymond Strid works with Gustafsson in another trio, Gush, and there seems to be an invisible wire connecting their minds, so astutely do they anticipate each other’s gestures. Bassist Barry Guy is a gigantically strong player who can nonetheless navigate the most fragile passages. And though he’s a living legend of improvised music, he’s equally committed to orchestral composition–his London Jazz Composers Orchestra has consistently been a wonderful outlet for his accomplished writing, which masterfully intertwines tightly written parts with unhinged solos. You Forget to Answer (Maya), this trio’s sole recording, displays the sort of clairvoyance that distinguishes the most exciting improv, but it works according to an innate architectural sense that reflects the interest of all three musicians in composed music. Wednesday, 9 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western; 773-276-3600. Gustafsson, Guy, and violinist Maya Homburger (Guy’s wife) will perform solos and duets on Tuesday at Unity Temple. Tuesday, 8 PM, Unity Temple, 875 Lake, Oak Park; 708-383-8873. PETER MARGASAK
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): Barry Guy photo by Marceil Meier/ Mats Gustafsson photo by Sven Boija.