Though trumpeter Brad Goode left Chicago in 1997 for Cincinnati and then Boulder, where he now teaches at the University of Colorado, his identity remains tied to this city.
He titled his newest album "Chicago Red" (Origin Records) and over the weekend celebrated its release in the room where he had built the early chapters of his career: the Green Mill.
Or perhaps Friday night's show was less a celebration than an observance, for the global players who appear on the recording were not with Goode at the Mill. Instead, Goode convened a quartet that played far different repertoire than the sleek, eclectic, funk-tinged music on "Chicago Red." That intelligently crafted work deserves to be heard live here, and fans were able to pick up the recording at the show. But Goode's homecoming nonetheless reminded listeners of how much we've been missing since the trumpeter has been away.
Each time Goode returns to his hometown he rekindles memories of his breakthrough period in the 1980s and '90s, but this time he played with unmistakable maturity, his technique at a high polish, his tone as warmly poetic as ever. In every composition, in fact, Goode consistently twinned fleet, often virtuosic playing with passages of tenderness and lyrical warmth.
Some of the most striking music of the night unfolded in a tune from the distant past, Xavier Cugat's "Nightingale." Using Harmon mute and opening at the pianissimo level, Goode conveyed a whispered intimacy that brought a famously rambunctious club to something close to a hush. It wasn't long, though, before Goode was unfurling fleet, running lines and producing trumpet sighs and cries that sounded like no one else's.
Surely it was the expressive range of this music, as well as its nostalgic undertone, that inspired the most enthusiastic ovations of the evening's first set. With pianist Adrean Farrugia, drummer Anthony Lee and bassist Kelly Sill heightening the deep-blue atmosphere of the performance, "Nightingale" reaffirmed Goode's prowess as improviser, mood-creator and bandleader.
As if to emphasize his local roots, Goode paid homage to an icon who often played the Green Mill and still stands as a symbol of Chicago jazz: tenor saxophonist Von Freeman. Goode brought out Freeman's "Jug Ain't Gone" and reveled in its bebop phraseology. This language always has come naturally to Goode, though his emergence in Chicago when so many of the bebop masters still played our stages enriched his understanding of it. The fluency of Goode's solos, the exuberance of his spirit and the persuasiveness of his tempo underscored the point.
Drummer Lee provided muscular support throughout the set, but his work in "Jug Ain't Gone," in particular, showed the controlled power he can summon.
Though one wished Goode had played some original compositions, his re-examination of standards took him far afield from conventional interpretations. The whirring high-register passages and copious melodic invention he brought to "Gone with the Wind" and the ultra-slow vibrato and gorgeous phrase-making he offered in "I Wish I Knew" attested to how much he has developed through the decades.
Next time, though, let's hear the band from "Chicago Red."