You'd think twentysomethings would have latched on to Joey DeFrancesco in a bigger way: considering the jazz organ's return to fashion in the 90s and DeFrancesco's precociousness, he certainly ought to be a star with his own generation. He made his recording debut a decade ago, at the age of 17, with a keyboard technique that stretched to the horizon and a fire-breathing, big-soul style; his resume includes a brief stint with Miles Davis in the late 80s (he appears on Davis's Amandla) and several years' membership in fusion-guitar guru John McLaughlin's organ trio of the mid-90s. But youth and tradition haven't proved a magic combo for Joey D: As jazz fans have rediscovered the Hammond B-3, they've gravitated toward either nearly forgotten old masters--Big John Patton, Mel Rhyne, Dr. Lonnie Smith, Reuben Wilson--or acid-washed younger musicians like John Medeski, who offer ironic reconstructions of the originals. DeFrancesco, though younger than Medeski, navigates the mainstream like his seasoned predecessors; since his classic style lacks novelty and he's too young to provoke nostalgia, he falls through the cracks. But DeFrancesco tailors a sharp set, inspired by the soulful intellect and broad sweeps of his idol Jack McDuff and embroidered with bursts of Jimmy Smith's electrifying petit point. Since '91 he's led the same trio he brings to town this weekend--an excellent, rock-steady unit starring guitarist Paul Bollenback and drummer Byron Landham--and this long-term investment pays big dividends. DeFrancesco is also a good, if not great, trumpeter, but lately he's begun recording as a vocalist with less promising results: his slightly fulsome baritone and warmed-over take on Sinatra are too reminiscent of the callow conviction that tarnishes the work of Harry Connick Jr. and John Pizzarelli. Friday and Saturday, 9 and 11 PM, and Sunday, 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 James Porto.