IRA SULLIVAN/JUNIOR MANCE/JOE DIORIO
Old Home Week at the Jazz Showcase: the three principals at this weekend’s jam sessions all have exceptionally strong Chicago roots. Multi-instrumentalist Ira Sullivan starred here in the 50s and 60s; guitarist Joe Diorio also lived here during that time, performing often with Sullivan before they both moved to Miami in the mid-60s. And pianist Junior Mance, who was born in Evanston, landed a job with the legendary Chicago saxophonist Gene Ammons before he could even vote. (He then moved east and rose to prominence with the bands of Cannonball Adderley and Dizzy Gillespie in the 50s.) Sullivan belongs to a tiny fraternity of jazzmen who have excelled on both the trumpet and saxophones, but his musical sorcery extends beyond the notes–if you’ve heard him before, you already know that he can make almost anything happen onstage. Like a pool shark, he plays angles you may never have seen. Sullivan returns to Chicago on a more or less annual basis, and Mance–who summons the jazz piano’s rollicking past in his bluesy, jump-start style–has played here a few times during the 90s; you can also keep up with him via his recordings. For those reasons, I reserve my greatest anticipation for Diorio, who appears here rarely and records for the small Italian label RAM. Like any true poet, Diorio is in love with the sound as well as the meaning of his phrases; he relishes the perfect size and shape of a note, and he nourishes his melodies with slow introspection. Now, I’d expect music fitting that description to bore the pants off me, and the fact that it doesn’t says a great deal about Diorio’s supreme musical focus as well as his commitment to art via craft. These three headliners–along with hundreds of other notables, at least a few of whom are expected to drop by and sit in–are here thanks to the International Association of Jazz Educators, whose annual conference takes place this weekend. 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): Ira Sullivan and Junior Mance photos.