Some musicians bust onto the scene out of nowhere, while others slowly build up a body of work that eventually cannot be ignored. Until a few years ago, Canadian pianist Paul Plimley was the proverbial tortoise, toiling diligently in Vancouver, the wonders of his unique approach barely known to the rest of the world. Then a flurry of activity put him in the ear of all attentive jazz fans, starting with Kaleidoscopes (hat ART, 1992), a stunning record of Ornette Coleman’s notoriously piano-hostile compositions interpreted with longtime partner bassist Lisle Ellis. Adding multi-instrumentalist Joe McPhee, Plimley and Ellis followed up with Sweet Freedom–Now What? (hat ART), a gorgeous collection of material associated with drummer Max Roach. Plimley’s got some of the choppiness and bluster of his spiritual mentor Cecil Taylor; in his more lyrical moments you might even catch some of Taylor’s signature riffs. But Plimley is extremely versatile, variously recalling the swift romance of Keith Jarrett (fortunately, Plimley’s not the gushy pedalophile that Jarrett can be) and the slippery linearity of Paul Bley. His new trio disc, Density of the Lovestruck Demons (Music & Arts), with Ellis and San Francisco drummer Donald Robinson, gives Plimley space to develop his own compositions, and the threesome’s take on Coleman’s “W.R.U.” is a funky must. Earlier this year, the pianist finally released his first solo disc, Everything in Stages (Songlines), a brilliantly recorded compendium of Plimley’s own music. On this infrequent visit to Chicago, he’ll play one set alone, then a trio set with bassist Kent Kessler and reed-player Ken Vandermark. Thursday, September 12, 9:30 PM, Lunar Cabaret and Full Moon Cafe, 2827 N. Lincoln; 327-6666.


Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): Paul Plimley photo.