A buoyant weekend in Chicago jazz

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The Memorial Day holiday obviously commemorates solemn events, but with so many people enjoying an extended weekend, Chicago's musical offerings are rich.

Among the highlights:

Eric Reed: One of the most compelling pianists in mainstream jazz, Reed won his greatest acclaim playing with trumpeter Wynton Marsalis in the 1990s. But the pianist stands as a significant artist in his own right, as he routinely demonstrates through the conviction of his tone, the fluidity of his technique and the sense of jazz history that pervades his work. When he played the Jazz Showcase last spring, he emphasized music of Thelonious Monk, a specialty he has developed in recordings such as "The Dancing Monk" and "The Baddest Monk." A deep blues sensibility and a visceral brand of swing pervaded his conceptions of this music, as well as jazz standards by Benny Golson and Dave Brubeck, among others. Listeners reasonably can expect to hear both Monk and jazz classics during this engagement, which will feature Reed leading a trio. 8 and 10 p.m. Thursday through Saturday; 4, 8 and 10 p.m. Sunday at the Jazz Showcase, 806 S. Plymouth Court; $25-$40; 312-360-0234 or jazz showcase.com

John McLean: The Chicago guitarist doesn't generate nearly the attention he deserves, the coiled intensity of his playing matched by its concision, tonal weight and technical prowess. These achievements have won McLean the admiration of a wide swath of jazz headliners who have engaged him on tour and recordings, including Dave Douglas, Dr. Lonnie Smith, Patricia Barber and Randy Brecker. Yes, his facial contortions and body language can be a bit distracting, but there's no questioning the depth and beauty of his music. For this engagement, McLean will lead a quartet staffed by vibraphonist Joe Locke, bassist Clark Sommers and drummer Xavier Breaker. 9 Friday and 8 p.m. Saturday at the Green Mill Jazz Club, 4802 N. Broadway; $15; 773-878-5552 or greenmilljazz.com

Russ Johnson: An immensely creative trumpeter, Johnson has worked a broad spectrum of musician idioms, from the outer fringes of the jazz avant-garde to tamer pop settings. He has been turning up with increasing frequency in Chicago, and for this date he celebrates the release of his "Meeting Point" CD. He'll be joined by like-minded Chicago adventurers: bass clarinetist Jason Stein, drummer Tim Daisy and bassist Anton Hatwich. 9 p.m. Friday at Constellation, 3111 N. Western Ave.; constellation-chicago.com

Mike Smith: Chicago alto saxophonist Smith has been playing his weekly engagement at Andy's for more than three decades, defying the laws of constant change that prevail at most jazz clubs. Yet it's not difficult to understand why Smith has flourished, his prowess on the instrument matched by his voracious appetite for far-flung repertoire. This time, he'll enjoy a rare weekend run, giving a wider range of listeners a chance to hear why he long ago became a Chicago mainstay. He'll lead a quartet. 9:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday at Andy's Jazz Club, 11 E. Hubbard St.; $15; 312-642-6805 or andysjazzclub.com

Juli Wood: The versatile Chicago musician knows her way around tenor and baritone saxophones and handles vocals, as well. For this engagement, she'll be paired with Pete Benson, whom Chicagoans know best for his aplomb on Hammond B-3 organ, though here he'll be seated at the piano. Considering the imaginative powers of these musicians, the duet setting should give each a great deal of space in which to stretch out; yet the intimacy of the room will enable listeners to hear every passing note. 6:30 p.m. Friday at Katerina's, 1920 W. Irving Park Rd.; no cover charge; 773-348-7592 or katerinas.com

Jackie Allen: A veteran singer who appears periodically on Chicago's stages, Allen celebrates the release of her latest album, "My Favorite Color." The recording features standards, surprises and originals. 10 p.m. Friday at Katerina's, 1920 W. Irving Park Rd.; $15; 773-348-7592 or katerinas.com

The Justefan Band: Chicago vibist Justin Thomas has been an increasingly active young player, most notably in the provocative Black Fire unit drummer Dana Hall leads Tuesday nights at Andy's. Thomas also appears under the persona of Justefan, and in that context he'll lead a trio with bassist Tim Ipsen and drummer Christian Euman. They'll play the weekly session presented by the non-profit Hyde Park Jazz Society. 7:30 to11:30 p.m. Sunday at Room 43, 1043 E. 43d St.; $10; hydeparkjazzsociety.com

Shawn Maxwell: Earlier this year at the Jazz Showcase, alto saxophonist Maxwell celebrated the release of "Shawn Maxwell's Alliance" (Chicago Sessions), an album that explores wholly unconventional repertoire via unorthodox instrumentation. That means two saxophones, wordless vocals plus two French horns, two stand-up basses, guitar, drums and percussion. The results were mostly quite alluring, the music morphing from jazz phrasing to classical rhythm to funk-tinged riffs without much warning. Nothing else sounds quite like this, Maxwell's eclectic approach taking listeners to unexpected places. 8 p.m. Sunday at City Winery, 1200 W. Randolph St.; $15; 312-733-9463 or citywinery.com

Judy Roberts and Greg Fishman: When singer-pianist Roberts returned from Arizona a few weeks ago, she launched her annual spring-summer residency back in her hometown at the Jazz Showcase, with saxophonist Fishman, her husband, alongside her. Now that their kickoff engagement has been completed, Roberts and Fishman are playing rooms across the Chicago area, most notably a twice-weekly run at Chambers, where the music-making feels more like a living-room jam session (with food) than a formal club date. They perform from 5 to 9 p.m. Sundays and 6 to 10 p.m. Tuesdays at Chambers, 6881 N. Milwaukee Ave., Niles; no cover; 847-647-8282 or thechambersonline.com

Chicago Jazz Orchestra Sextet: A rotating cast of musicians from Jeff Lindberg's Chicago Jazz Orchestra staffs the CJO Sextet, which closes out its extended run of Monday-night shows to make way for the full orchestra starting in June. The night I heard the CJO Sextet, saxophonist John Wojciechowski turned in profound work as soloist and bandleader, but there really isn't a weak spot in the lineup. 5 and 7 p.m. Monday at Andy's Jazz Club, 11 E. Hubbard St.; $10; 312-642-6805 or andysjazzclub.com

Patricia Barber: The inimitable Chicago singer-pianist-composer recently played a revelatory concert at the University of Chicago's Logan Center for the Arts, reaffirming her expanding breadth of expression. But Chicaogans can catch her in a less formal setting during her weekly sessions at the Green Mill, which for years has served as her primary laboratory for testing original material, honing her pianism and developing the wide-open, other wordly quality of her vocals. 9 p.m. Monday at the Green Mill Jazz Club, 4802 N. Broadway; $7; 773-878-5552 or greenmilljazz.com

To read more from Howard Reich on jazz, go to chicagotribune.com/reich.


Twitter @howardreich

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