When: Sun., Dec. 18, 10 p.m. 2011
Terrific San Francisco trumpeter Darren Johnston has been making regular visits to Chicago for the past couple of years, improvising with local musicians in ad hoc configurations and enlisting a handful of steady collaborators to interpret his tunes. The concerts focusing on his music have been wonderful, and while here in July 2010 he recorded that material for a quintet album called The Big Lift (Porto Franco) that came out this fall. Johnston and his front-line partner, trombonist Jeb Bishop, frequently shape the slinking melodies with a mixture of hocketlike bits and identical phrases that shadow each other a beat or two apart, while bassist Nate McBride and drummer Frank Rosaly build nimble, loosey-goosey grooves and vibist Jason Adasiewicz fills in the sound with supersaturated resonance or drops efficient, affecting on-the-fly counterpoint. The title track and "Glass Ceiling, Paper Floor" have a fierce drive, with slashing, almost sinister horn lines, but the high-velocity, calypso-flavored "Two Ways of Running" makes that same slashing quality sound effervescent. Johnston and company tackle Ellington's "Black and Tan Fantasy," giving it a wildly lurching groove that doesn't quite dismantle its indelible bluesy theme, and pull off the difficult trick of making an Ornette Coleman tune their own—their version of "Love Call" darkens and subdues Coleman's instantly recognizable buoyant bounce. —Peter Margasak Tonight Johnston leads the lineup from The Big Lift. See also Thursday, Saturday, , and Monday.
Price: $7 suggested donation