In 1966, when 21-year-old Eddie Gomez first hit the spotlight as the bassist in Bill Evans's famous trio, he transformed the future of his instrument. Gomez conceived of the bass not as a giant violin (which it is) but as a guitar: his pizzicato had the speed, dexterity, and feathery lightness of the best fingerpicking, so that his bass lines felt more like rushing wind than steady footfalls. Charles Mingus had hinted at this technique in the 1950s, as had Jimmy Garrison in the early '60s, but no one except Scott LaFaro--one of Gomez's predecessors in the Evans trio, who died at 25 in 1961--had so completely lifted the bass off the ground. Gomez remained with the trio for over a decade, his dour, reedy tone becoming as recognizable a part of the group's profile as Evans's piano. He exerted enormous influence on the next generation of bassists--maybe even too much. The size and material of the bass's strings make it difficult to play with both speed and tone, and the 70s and 80s saw a flurry of young players all but ignore the instrument's majestic resonance in an attempt to imitate Gomez's dazzling virtuosity. Only a handful have since achieved his marriage of opposites--the full tone and effortless speed that let him keep playing the bass fiddle, rather than an electric bass, even in the fusion band Steps Ahead, which he helped found in 1979. Stylistically Gomez sits across the aisle from Chicagoan Kelly Sill, the regular bassist for the John Campbell Trio; when Gomez's dizzying flights replace Sill's sturdy, burled-walnut tone this weekend, it should have an intriguing effect on that combo's finely tuned balance. Friday and Saturday, 9:30 PM, Lush Life, 226 E. Ontario; 312-649-5874. NEIL TESSER
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): uncredited photo.