DON BENNETT QUARTET
When the energetic mainstream pianist Don Bennett traveled from Europe to perform here in his former hometown last September, he brought with him several tunes from his supposedly imminent album, Simplexity. Since then Bennett has reestablished residency in Chicago, and Simplexity (on the British Candid label) has only just arrived in stores, prompting this CD-release celebration. The album redeems its delay. In the last decade Bennett's playing has steadily expanded beyond the muscular hard-bop technique and flashy, blues-oriented swing that once defined it. On disc, this has meant a more compact and concentrated approach to improvisation. The notes seem to well up from farther down inside the piano, and the solos take shape with less fuss: they ring truer than ever, because Bennett's idea of where they're going is clearer than ever. For instance, the new album contains an original called "Euphoria," on which Bennett crams a relatively short solo with arpeggios. The arpeggio is the simplest cliche of piano praxis, and if Bennett had tossed in just a few, they'd have sounded like refugees from a cocktail lounge. But by including as many as he does, Bennett makes them the organizing principle of the solo, thereby constructing a lovely little house of cards. In person Bennett tends to play to the crowd, which can take the fine edge off his playing--though when he does revert to a two-fisted saloon style he pulls it off pretty well, swinging his chords like big blunt objects. He'll have bassist Dennis Carroll and George Fludas, his regular Chicago drummer, in tow; the hard-driving saxophonist Pat Mallinger completes the quartet. Saturday, 8 PM, Green Mill, 4802 N. Broadway; 773-878-5552. NEIL TESSER
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): Don Bennett photo by Ed Crilly.