Don Bennet Quartet | Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Don Bennet Quartet 

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DON BENNETT QUARTET

When he lived in Chicago, the peripatetic pianist Don Bennett played a hale and fleshy brand of jazz piano. Energized by big, blunt chords drawn from the gospel-inspired soul jazz of the 50s, his solos and comp work would rock with a beat as burly as his physical stature even as his right hand made the break for high-note blues lines and high-speed melodies of a more complex nature. On hard bop classics and minor-key compositions of his own, he turned out riffy solos that often pushed the tempo and sometimes punished the meter. By the time he moved to the Netherlands, a couple years ago, these surface strengths pretty much defined his playing. But the first album he recorded in Europe--last year's Solar (Candid)--revealed new elements in Bennett's approach: an unforced lightness on mid-tempo tunes, and on ballads a sense of true romance, which supplies ballast for the sentimental extravagance of his harmonies. (Bennett has gained flexibility in the corporeal sense, too: he returns to Chicago looking lighter and fitter than he has in years.) This weekend's gig will feature some of the tunes from Bennett's upcoming album, Simplexity (Candid), played by a terrific band. Drummer George Fludas and bassist Marlene Rosenberg take quite compatible approaches to the beat; together, their rhythms form a tight but breathable seal around the music. And saxist Ari Brown, with his ability to follow a musical idea as far as it will go, should help the usually open-minded Bennett stretch his music to its full capacity. (Bennett will also perform at Pops for Champagne Wednesday, Thursday, and next Saturday and Sunday, September 28 and 29.) Friday, 9 PM, and Saturday, 8 PM, Green Mill, 4802 N. Broadway; 878-5552.

NEIL TESSER

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

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