When Joe Lovano released Trio Fascination (Blue Note) last year, it'd been almost eight years since the saxophonist had recorded in a pianoless trio--a long time to abstain from what will likely be seen as his signature setting. He's at home among all kinds of instrumental textures, from the 24-karat soul of guitarist John Scofield's best band to his own experimental octet to the jazz-classical melange of his mid-90s triumph, Rush Hour; but whenever Lovano's name comes up, in my mind's ear I hear that skeletal format. He breathes in its liberties in great gulps, filling the space created by the absence of a piano with his gracefully gnarled sidewinder solos and multidimensional tone. And since he's unshackled from all but the most basic duties of a bandleader, he can better display a sparkling summation of his instruments' postbop histories: besides his tenor, Lovano usually brings a soprano sax and sometimes an alto clarinet, the rarely seen middle sibling of that family; these days he often packs an even rarer straight alto saxophone, which reaches almost to his shoe tops and produces a slightly woody sound, darker than that of the standard alto. Trio Fascination features the can't-miss rhythm team of bassist Dave Holland and drummer Elvin Jones, but since both lead their own busy bands (Holland's arrives in town March 9) they're not on tour with Lovano. He's found a couple more-than-able replacements, though: bassist Cameron Brown took over for Charles Mingus in Mingus's quintet after his death; drummer Idris Muhammad can approximate Jones's trademark energy-music lope but he also has his own marvelously effective style, which combines jazz, soul, and the spicy kick of his native New Orleans. Tuesday through Thursday, 8 and 10 PM, next Friday and Saturday, March 5 and 6, 9 and 11 PM, and next Sunday, March 7, 4, 8, and 10 PM, Jazz Showcase, 59 W. Grand; 312-670-2473. NEIL TESSER
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo by jimmy Katz.