Tim Hagans hasn't drawn the spotlight: he has issued neither controversial statements nor radical methodology, and consequently his name may ring no bells. But his trumpet work chimes and peals, proving in the process his grasp of both the instrument and its traditional leadership role in jazz. Hagans punches out his ideas with an unusual clarity that stems in part from his focused, slightly astringent tone and mostly from his subtle sense of modern, post-60s melodicism. On his debut album, 1994's No Words (Blue Note), Hagans not only played with admirable assurance; he also bundled a wide range of compositions into an imaginative, even witty memoir of his own influences. His labelmate, saxist Rick Margitza, has a busy, ballsy style with plenty of edge--a perfect, and historically accurate, foil to Hagans's own instrumental voice. This classic jazz quintet sound--trumpet and tenor over a piano-based rhythm trio--took flight in the 1950s, very much as a response to the times. (Big bands had become unwieldy and economically questionable; a streamlined context seemed to fit postwar America; and plenty of saxophonists had switched to tenor after hearing the genius Charlie Parker on alto.) But the durability of the format shows through in the success with which each generation manipulates and redefines it. By the way, placing the names of Hagans and Margitza in the headline is almost an arbitrary choice: drummer Paul Wertico and bassist Steve Rodby are probably both better known (thanks to their longtime association with Pat Metheny) and can lead their own groups anytime; and pianist Jim Trompeter provides technique and imagination as startlingly crisp as anything else onstage. It all makes for one helluva pickup band. Saturday, Green Mill, 4802 N. Broadway; 878-5552.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photos/Jeffrey Scales/Judi Schiller.