Trumpeter Rob Blakeslee sometimes seems like the Chet Baker of postfreedom jazz. Though he mixes it up in everything from moody late-60s-style progressive jazz to rigorously avant-garde melees--often alongside Los Angeles free-jazz guru Vinny Golia, in one of the reedman's several ensembles--he always stays an extra step behind the horn, the same cool stance Baker (and Miles Davis) struck in the 50s. Also like Baker, Blakeslee has a clean, quiet technique that imparts extra authority to his well-considered leaps and knotty chromatic passages. He's no upstart, and in fact has recorded four albums under his own name, all for Golia's small Nine Winds label; even among new-music aficionados, however, Blakeslee doesn't have a nationwide reputation. Yet his sanguine improvisations and lovely, elusive compositions boast spice and originality, and on the trumpeter's 1994 recording Long Narrows (Nine Winds) he holds his own against the fiery Golia--proving that Blakeslee's more than just Golia's foil, and that his talents deserve to be appreciated apart from Golia's influence. At these shows Blakeslee will perform his own compositions, including some from his newest, Spirit of Our Times, with drummer Damon Short's quartet, which features bassist Noel Kupersmith, saxist Chuck Burdelik, and bass trumpeter Ryan Shultz--a group that has established itself as Chicago's ready-to-wear repertory band, welcoming visiting soloists into its midst and adapting to their demands with the skill of veteran aerialists breaking in new partners. Wednesday, 9 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western; 773-276-3600. Thursday, 8 PM, HotHouse, 31 E. Balbo; 312-362-9707. Next Friday, October 9, 9:30 PM, Velvet Lounge, 2128 1/2 S. Indiana; 312-791-9050. NEIL TESSER
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): uncredited photo.