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The Jazz Showcase, which has been homeless since the end of last year, is staging an impressive benefit tomorrow, March 1, at the Harris Theater, to help with relocation costs once it finds a new home, something owner Joe Segal says will happen. The club has long been the place in town to regularly check out the finest in mainstream jazz. The Tribune’s Howard Reich actually wrote a pretty good piece in Sunday’s paper examining the difficulties Segal faces these days—with a dying pool of talent, competition from institutions like Symphony Center, and a stubborn refusal to program many musicians that incorporate more contemporary (read: anything from the last three decades) developments into their work. Yet whatever Segal’s shortcomings, he’s remained an invaluable resource to the city, and it’s crucial that he resurface soon. Most of the performers are local, but a killer trio with drummer Jack DeJohnette and pianist Danilo Perez—who recorded a live album at the club a few years ago—suggests the loyalty and appreciation some jazz stars have for Segal.
Over at the Steppenwolf, guitarist Bill Frisell performs tomorrow night as part of the three-week Traffic Jam series, a “festival of music, language and performance." (So much for specificity.) Last year Frisell released one of his best albums in years, a lean trio session with drummer Paul Motian and bassist Ron Carter that put some backbone behind the guitarist’s improvisations, which too often are puffy clouds with no rain lurking inside. Motian, who possesses one of jazz’s lightest touches but can swing like nobody’s business, kicked the guitarist’s ass, providing the sort of focus Frisell really needs. Here he’s joined by the superb violinist Jenny Scheinman—who recently delivered the goods at the Empty Bottle as part of drummer Scott Amendola’s band—and pedal steel/lap steel whiz Greg Leisz, a guy who’s worked with everyone from Matthew Sweet to Lucinda Williams to Me’Shell Ndegeocello. I saw this trio play at the Berlin Jazz Festival a couple years ago and the entire set consisted of Beatles tunes—twangy, creatively arranged versions. But it wasn’t exactly, um, high impact. No telling what their repertoire will consist of this time.
Finally, although this isn’t exactly jazz news, one of the contestants on American Idol, Chicagoan Leslie Hunt, is the daughter of drummer Steve Hunt, the explosive force behind bands like Hal Russell’s NRG Ensemble, Caffeine, and a steady member of the quartet led by pianist Jim Baker that plays every Tuesday night at Hotti Biscotti.