Ingrid Jensen Quartet | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Ingrid Jensen Quartet 

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INGRID JENSEN QUARTET

Though a preponderance of post-Marsalis trumpeters have homed in on the tough, soulful, but largely conservative melodies of the hard-bop 50s, few have explored the crusading swagger with which Freddie Hubbard and Woody Shaw led bebop into the liberated, tumultuous 60s. Now the bop revival has finally produced an answer to Hubbard's brash virility, and it's a bit of a surprise: trumpeter and flugelhornist Ingrid Jensen, one of the few women ever to break into the boys' club of jazz trumpet. But good music doesn't cater to easy expectations--take Hubbard's sweet, even tender way with a ballad, for example--and Jensen doesn't fit too many stereotypes either. Still in her early 30s, she's already a veteran with three discs under her own name and a busy, gregarious style that balances propulsive lyricism with explosive technical fireworks. Admittedly, she can't match the steel-trap precision or timbral strength Hubbard had in his heyday, but then again, who can? Only a few of Jensen's contemporaries have so successfully created a sound of their own from a model of the past. On her latest disc, last year's Higher Grounds (Enja), she continues to investigate the much neglected corner of the mid-60s mainstream where Shaw, pianist Andrew Hill, saxist Wayne Shorter, and others pushed jazz past the constraints of hard bop, but the album's never overly nostalgic. Even the combination of her flugelhorn and Gary Thomas's flute on some of the album's ballads--a sort of pairing little heard since the 60s and 70s--sounds surprisingly fresh. For these dates, Jensen plays as part of a terrific quartet featuring drummer Billy Hart and pianist Geoff Keezer. Hart, who provided ballast for Herbie Hancock's high-flying 70s sextet, retains a fusion-era energy in his deftly accented commentary; Keezer brings to his comping the same imaginative harmonies, chiaroscuro voicings, and melodic intelligence that make him one of his generation's signal soloists. Bassist James Weidenmuller rounds out the band. Thursday, June 22, 8 and 10 PM, Friday and Saturday, June 23 and 24, 9 and 11 PM, and Sunday, June 25, 4, 8, and 10 PM, Jazz Showcase, 59 W. Grand; 312-670-2473. NEIL TESSER

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