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UNION

Count the eponymously titled album by this group, which arrived this summer on the British label Naim Audio, among the year's great surprises: it documents an impeccable trio that few people even knew existed. Not that any jazz head in Chicago would at this point question the impact pianist Laurence Hobgood's leviathan chords and intensely focused improvisations can have on an audience. And Paul Wertico's powerful but precise embroidering of the beat needs little introduction to hometown crowds or to worldwide fans of the Pat Metheny Group, which he has anchored for the last 15 years. That Hobgood and Wertico mesh well isn't the shocker either: working together for the last several years in both Kurt Elling's band and in Trio New, they've had plenty of opportunity to absorb each other's rhythms. But one might not have expected the third Union member to settle in so easily as the trio's fulcrum. Bassist Brian Torff is best known for his work with George Shearing and Marian McPartland, two much older and far more polite pianists than Hobgood. But with his arioso tone and spacious lines, Torff does more than just settle in--he steers the band into quiet corners of nuance that Hobgood and Wertico don't often explore on their own. Torff's role confirms that this is indeed a cooperative trio, as the group's name--and more important, the lack of any one member's name--suggests. Friday, 9 PM, and Saturday, 8 PM, Green Mill, 4802 N. Broadway; 773-878-5552. NEIL TESSER

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): uncredited photo.

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