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Russell Gunn

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The phrase "from bebop to hip-hop" has become shorthand for critics attempting to understand modern pop music from an African-American historical perspective. In this view, Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie--the first black Americans to defiantly call their music art as well as entertainment--are the forefathers of today's most forward-looking rappers. But even if this lineage is real, it doesn't seem to have made it easier for musicians to bridge the gap between the rhythmic complexity of jazz and the numbing monotony of the typical hip-hop beat--only a few have managed it, most notably saxophonist Steve Coleman of M-BASE, trumpeter Nicholas Payton, LA's defunct B Sharp Jazz Quartet, and 33-year-old trumpeter Russell Gunn. (Payton is also playing in town this week--see Friday.) Since 1999 Gunn has produced four discs in his ongoing "Ethnomusicology" series; the latest, Live in Atlanta (Justin Time), arrived a month ago, and though like the others it adds revamped standards to the mix ("Blue in Green," "Summertime"), it also fleshes out his initial fusion with some lovely retro soul-jazz. Born in Chicago but raised in East Saint Louis, Gunn first aspired to a career as a rapper, but dove headlong into jazz while still in his teens, rapidly developing a command of the entire jazz tradition: between his "Ethnomusicology" albums he's released excellent mainstream discs, and in the mid-90s he worked with both Wynton Marsalis and avant-garde pioneer Oliver Lake. Vibrant in any idiom--whether playing clean or using electronics to dirty up his splashy tone--Gunn has a bold and focused approach that sets him apart as one of the most promising jazzmen of his generation. Sun 12/5, 8 PM, HotHouse, 31 E. Balbo, 312-362-9707, $15.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Michael Jackson.

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