Juli Wood didn’t invent the idea of the singing saxophonist–the Glenn Miller band of the 40s featured Tex Beneke, who sang with the same buttery insistence he brought to the tenor, and by the early 50s Eddie “Cleanhead” Vinson had gained renown not only as a jazz altoist but also as a mean blues vocalist–but she works hard to uphold the tradition. Wood has a clear mid-range voice and uses it with a fair amount of moxie. For this performance, though, she plans on singing very little and letting her saxophones (tenor and baritone) do the talking. Wood plays with confidence and facility, but not even she suggests that her sax work is the main attraction at this gig; rather, it’s the rare chance to hear Milwaukee’s great organist Melvin Rhyne and Chicago’s terrific guitarist Bobby Broom in the same band. To begin with, Rhyne, also a solid pianist, doesn’t always lug the organ with him when he travels. When he does, such as this weekend, his playing presents a startling contrast to the florid splendor that characterizes most jazz organ styles. Rhyne understates the instrument’s idiosyncrasies instead of exploiting them; his spare, thoughtful style works within an ensemble rather than dominating the proceedings. In this context, Bobby Broom makes an excellent partner for Rhyne–at least judging by their one recording together, led by saxist Eric Alexander for the Dutch label Criss Cross (Eric Alexander in Europe). Broom brings a big, enveloping energy to his blues- and funk-flavored improvising: even when he doesn’t have the solo, he crafts short, telling fill phrases that nestle perfectly into the spaces that Rhyne–more than most organists–leaves in his music. The excellent drummer George Fludas rounds out the band, which could easily prove as spicy as the menu at this gig’s venue. Friday, 10 PM, Smoke Daddy, 1804 W. Division; 772-6656.


Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): Photo of Juli Wood, by Luke Weber.