DR. LONNIE SMITH & RONNIE CUBER
The chance to hear either of these guys--the delightfully unorthodox organist Dr. Lonnie Smith or the booting baritone man Ronnie Cuber--would be worth the price of admission. But the chance to hear them together again for the first time in 30 years? Priceless. Smith and Cuber met in 1966, when they both joined George Benson's first band, and when Smith left a couple years later to form his own group, he took Cuber with him. You can hear the music they played together on the concert recordings Move Your Hand and Live at Club Mozambique and Smith's iconic studio album Drives, all made for Blue Note in '69 and '70. But in the 70s they went their separate ways. Cuber, who'd developed a reputation as a soul-jazz man, established himself as a fiery Latin-jazz soloist and eventually earned kudos as the leading hard-bop stylist among the baritone saxists of his generation. He started out with a blaring, wide-angle sound and a galaxy of technique, but as he's narrowed both of them he's become a more nuanced player. Smith, who at 58 is a year younger than Cuber (and shouldn't be confused with another keyboardist who came up in the 60s, Lonnie Liston Smith), worked some with saxist Lou Donaldson, but disappeared from the studio scene in the 80s. He returned in 1991 with an album called The Turbanator (recently reissued by 32 Jazz), proclaiming himself a doctor and sporting the turbans that have become his trademark. His style, originally a splashy, funky variation on the blues, had evolved into a wildly impressionistic take on traditional organ jazz. Smith builds balanced, cohesive solos out of the tasty tidbits most organists use only as seasoning--unexpected accents, percussive episodes, swirling swaths of tonal color--which makes him both the quirkiest organist of his generation and one of the most enjoyable players of any generation. Smith and Cuber will perform with Chicagoans Bobby Broom on guitar and Dana Hall on drums. Saturday, 6 PM, Jump & Verve Jazz Festival, outside Pete Miller's Steakhouse, 1557 Sherman, Evanston; 847-289-4252.