The jazz scene in Chicago is one of the most vital and unique aspects to the city. Even if Kenny G-styled nonsense is your cool desire, it shouldn’t be difficult to hunt down in a town sporting a population bigger than most other countries. Joe McPhee doesn’t have time for such considerations, though. Kicking around avant-jazz’ periphery since the late sixties, the saxophonist has run through Chicago at least five times in the last few years, drawing a healthy crowd during each trip. So far into his career, it might be surprising that McPhee remains able to continuously generate new ideas—either spontaneously during solo improv sets or as a player in mid-sized combos. But that’s what a lifetime of music has done for a guy who, admittedly, freaked out left-field jazz players in Coltrane and Coleman’s wake. What keeps McPhee returning to town, apart from appreciative crowds and a wealth of interesting venues to land gigs at, is the pool of talent functioning as Chicago’s jazz scene. Being able to pull Ken Vandermark, Jason Adasiewicz and Fred Lonberg-Holm as a pickup group can’t happen anywhere else. New York’s downtown scene from the sixties through the nineties can lay claim to having more players perform a wider variety of jazz styles, but the inventiveness spurting out of places like the Hungry Brain, the Hideout and all those upper-level joints on Milwaukee rank as a locus of culture—and ridiculously affordable ones. (Dave Cantor)
June 2 at Elastic Arts, 2830 North Milwaukee, Second Floor, (773)772-3616. 10pm. $10.