Arts & Culture » Theater Critic's Choice

Damon Short Quintet With Paul Smoker

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Paul Smoker is a marvel. Even if he weren't making such superb musical sense, the sheer velocity and ferocity of his technique might leave you breathless. (The question is why it doesn't leave him breathless: I've seen the man play two hours of the most crackling trumpet imaginable and return to the stage smiling. Smiling! His lips must be steel-belted.) But Paul Smoker, who lives in Iowa and plays more in Europe than in the U.S., is also a musical thinker of the first order, whose conceptual agility matches that of his technique. His grasp of idioms stretches from free-fall to the highly structured forms of the earliest jazz, and while he is hardly the first to find the link between today's avant-garde and the group improvisation of long-ago New Orleans, he is currently one of the best at playing it. He's in town tomorrow with Damon Short, the drummer who has studied and worked in both New Orleans and Chicago, and who offers up a light but textured pulse that supports a soloist without making such a big deal about it. Short is himself a wonderful soloist, fine composer, and all-around well-kept secret; this gig thus lets you acquaint yourself with two--count 'em--two noteworthy midwestern jazz leaders in one stroke. Smoker and Short have worked together in the past, so the resulting music won't be a complete surprise--at least not for the musicians (which is always a good start). Tonight, Get Me High, 1758 N. Honore; 252-4090.

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