By dint of historical timing and his musical inclinations, Mark Whitfield has emerged as Fretman to the Revolution. The guitarist has earned the personal approbation of Wynton Marsalis and emerged--along with such players as trumpeter Roy Hargrove and saxist Joshua Redman and bassist Christian McBride--as his instrument's principal representative in the New Jazz Order. And really, that's no small accomplishment, no matter what you may think of the neoclassic approach that Whitfield takes. He has the knuckle-busting precision to legitimize the trickiest patterns at the least forgiving tempos, and he uses them to give his solos an energetic bite. I like the variety and imagination of his chord textures, and his almost offhanded technical prowess: some of his most sophisticated lines fall from the guitar with the unaffected grace of a lazy mountain waterfall. For the last three decades most young guitarists have leaned on the apple-cheeked tone and rhythmic bump of Wes Montgomery for their stylistic support; like Whitfield, several have also captured the sass and funk of Grant Green's hard swing, and even a portion of Kenny Burrell's hard-bop power. But Whitfield puts it all together much better than most and has a few of his own effective tricks (some of which involve at least the illusion of simultaneous melody lines). He'll bring his own New York quartet for this Chicago debut. Tuesday through next Saturday, March 25, Joe Segal's Jazz Showcase, Blackstone Hotel, 636 S. Michigan; 427-4846.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): Photo/James Minchin.