In what may become one of Chicago jazz's great annual Christmas presents, Ed Petersen returns for an end-of-the-year weekend that gives us the chance to savor his invincible virtuosity--a flavorful concoction of grit and spice that now belongs to the city of New Orleans (where Petersen took a teaching gig in 1994). On tenor saxophone, his main instrument, Petersen's fat and malleable tone hurls the music forward; his intense articulation makes it seem as if he's gobbling up the chords faster than his pianists can dish them out. Then when he reaches for his elegant curved soprano he seems to back off a notch, with a tone that integrates the sounds of the old New Orleans masters and of the modernists who popularized the instrument in the 60s. Petersen's high-energy approach to the sax finds its roots in John Coltrane and such Chicago giants as Von Freeman and Johnny Griffin, whose hyperexpressive balladry has also left its mark. But his roots remain subterranean, as they should; they anchor rather than dominate his highly personal, splendidly focused playing, and give shape and substance to his sprawling, electrifying solos. When he lived in Chicago Petersen impressed audiences with not only his perfectionism but his versatility, and the next few days offer a kaleidoscopic reminder of his favorite settings--all at his favorite club. He'll square off with Freeman in a Friday night "Battle of the Saxes" (December 27); the next night he joins in behind vocalist Kurt Elling (whose career he helped foster). On New Year's Eve he returns as a guest soloist with the Alternative 7 Band led by baritone saxist and WXRT DJ Barry Winograd. Friday and Tuesday, 9 PM, and Saturday, 8 PM, Green Mill, 4802 N. Broadway; 773-878-5552 (773-665-8400 for New Year's reservations).
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): Edward Petersen photo.