The roster alone tells most of the story: a front line of trumpeter Lester Bowie and saxists Arthur Blythe and Chico Freeman, supported by a rhythm section of pianist Kirk Lightsey, the incomparable bassist Cecil McBee, and drummer Don Moye. And as indicated by their 1987 Jazz Fest appearance--and especially by their brand-new album on Black Saint--the music will be supercharged, richly layered, and cohesive. (The conceit behind the group's name is that each member is "leader" in his own right, but the lack of any discernible ego clash almost belies that concept.) Beyond all that, the very existence of the band is a fascinating anomaly: The Leaders embody tradition--the "all-star" assemblage of great jazz musicians--that began with Louis Armstrong's Hot Five. And yet, the Leaders' roots are in the jazz avant-garde of the 60s, where the lack of conventional tunes and traditional instrumentation was said to have destroyed the jam session and, by extension, bands such as this. If you still harbor doubts about the mainstreaming of the "avant-garde," you can have them dispelled this weekend in thoroughly convincing fashion. Tonight through Sunday, Joe Segal's Jazz Showcase, Blackstone Hotel, 636 S. Michigan; 427-4300.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Anthony Barboza.