Paul Giallorenzo Credit: Isa Giallorenzo

The pianist Paul Giallorenzo is an under-the-radar presence within Chicago’s deep improvised music scene, but over the years he’s become a significant force both on and off the bandstand. He’s a crucial figure behind Elastic Arts, the invaluable, diverse performing arts space at the northern end of Logan Square, as he was for its Humboldt Park predecessor 3030. He’s also built an increasingly impressive reputation as a musician, forging a distinctive strain of spaced-out post-Sun Ra grooves with the trio Hearts & Minds and writing brisk, angular postbop vehicles for his quintet GitGo. With the latter, he’s revealed his gifts as a composer with a series of catchy themes rooted in the sounds of 50s radicals like Thelonious Monk, Herbie Nichols, and Elmo Hope, but on recordings his playing has often been overshadowed by the array of horn players he’s allowed take the bulk of the solo space. That makes his upcoming album Flow (due October 20 on Delmark) especially welcome. The rhythm section of bassist Joshua Abrams and drummer Mikel Patrick Avery give the pianist plenty of space to extrapolate on his pithy, fat-free themes while they swing hard and cleave tightly to the groove. On “Rolling,” his opening chords recall the sound of Chicago great King Fleming or Erroll Garner as he sprinkles in some cocktail lounge voicings before opening up his playing with wonderfully tart, propulsive lines that lock in beautifully with the rhythm section. “A Way We Go” sounds like it could be an outtake from Duke Ellington’s brilliant Money Jungle (Blue Note) with Max Roach and Charles Mingus. In some ways Giallorenzo tantalizingly reimagines the sound of 50s Chicago—when Sun Ra could be found playing gigs across town from Ahmad Jamal—with concision and an exploratory vibe, though in his hands there’s no trace of mischief.   v