In most hands, the jazz harmonica remains a somewhat limiting instrument, with an unwieldy design that would seem to defy its practitioners' creativity. But the harmonica--especially the chromatic model, which contains all the sharps and flats of the scale (unlike the little Marine Band blues harmonicas)--also has a vocal, arioso quality. In the right hands, like those of Bruno De Filippi, it can uniquely express the flightier aspects of improvisation. You might think of De Filippi as Italy's answer to the better-known Toots Thielemans. The Belgian-born Thielemans began his career as a jazz guitarist but made his name as the unrivaled master of the chromatic harmonica; De Filippi, a generation younger, has followed the same path, turning from guitar to harmonica in the early 80s. (Without belaboring the comparison, De Filippi plays both instruments with a riper, more pungent attack than Thielemans.) For a jazz harmonica player, it takes a lionheart to visit Chicago: the city is still home to Howard Levy, the instrument's most inventive and galvanizing jazz virtuoso. But De Filippi plays with plenty of facility; besides, he takes an entirely different approach, relying on his natural gift for pure melody and legato phrasing to carry the day. He'll hook up in Chicago with an unimpeachable rhythm section--drummer Jeff Stitely, bassist John Whitfield, pianist Jim Ryan--and a simpatico frontline partner in saxist Jim Gailloreto, who shares De Filippi's penchant for soaring melody and romantic inflection. Friday, 9 PM, and Saturday, 8 PM, Green Mill, 4802 N. Broadway; 878-5552. (Coincidentally, Levy too will perform this week: Sunday afternoon and Monday night he'll debut his own composition for harmonica and chamber orchestra. See Classical listings.)
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): Photo/Riccardo Schwamenthal.