Those who’ve followed the career of trumpeter Tom Harrell won’t be surprised that on his latest album–the delightful and typically well-crafted The Art of Rhythm (RCA Victor)–he trains his compositional skills on the pulses of South America and the Caribbean. Anyone who’s heard Harrell’s haunting 1989 tune “Sail Away” has probably spent a few idle moments wondering when he might further explore his obvious gift for Latin music. One of the finest jazz sambas ever written and one of the more memorable compositions of any kind in 20 years, “Sail Away” has continued to gain admirers via the many cover recordings it’s inspired, including those by Phil Woods, Kenny Barron, Chris Potter, the Chicago big band led by Rob Parton, and vocalist Sheila Jordan. Harrell’s writerly skills have always informed his improvising, which carries some of the measured lyricism of Bill Evans; this gives his solos a sculpted quality, as if he’d carved them from a block of music instead of assembling them from the scraps. His tone has the backlit glow of Chet Baker’s best work, and he stays just a bit behind the beat, with the easy confidence of the fashionably late. This approach only enhances the various meters employed on The Art of Rhythm, which Harrell has adapted from the complicated rhythms of Brazil, Cuba, Trinidad, Argentina, and even Spain–his casual swing gets caught up in the songs rather than herding them in. Harrell brings to town a completely different band from the ones he’s led in recent years, with a rhythm section more attuned to the demands of his new repertoire: pianist Xavier Davis, bassist Ugonna Okegwo, and drummer Adam Cruz, known for his work with saxist David Sanchez. The quintet also features the youthful Greg Tardy, who lights up Harrell’s compositions with his exuberant tenor and flighty clarinet, and whose promising debut album arrived in stores last month. 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): photo by Michael Ian.