We're about to begin a remarkably lively jazz weekend, even by Chicago standards. Among the highlights:
The Engines: This enterprising ensemble has been offering a stylistically free-ranging music for nearly a decade, but this weekend's engagement stands out. The Engines will be kicking off a North American tour with a two-night run at the Green Mill Jazz Club, which has become an increasingly visible platform for Chicago experimenters. This time, the Engines will be celebrating an important new release, "Other Violets," recorded live at the Hungry Brain on May 15, 2011. Of particular note: The guest that night was the much-admired saxophonist John Tchicai, whose questing, soft-spoken playing represented a singular voice in new music. As Engines saxophonist Dave Rempis observes on the album's liner notes, "The expressive strength of John's sound endures — the tender, searching, bittersweet yet playful lilt of his phrasing; the tart crispness of his tone; the meandering yet purposeful sense of pitch. All of these were a part of the vision that enabled him to stand up to the sheer force of players like (John) Coltrane, (Albert) Ayler, and (Archie) Shepp; not by out-muscling them, but by presenting a completely different idea of what was possible on the instrument." Tchicai died in October in France, at age 76, making this engagement as much a celebration of Tchicai's contributions as the Engines' document of his collaboration with the Chicago musicians. Rempis will be joined by trombonist Jeb Bishop, drummer Tim Daisy and bassist Kent Kessler (sitting in for bassist Nate McBride). 9 p.m. Friday and 8 p.m. Saturday at the Green Mill Jazz Club, 4802 N. Broadway; $12; 773-878-5552 or greenmilljazz.com
Richie Cole's Alto Madness: As the long-running name of Cole's band suggests, the alto saxophonist brings a certain feverish intensity to his playing. Certainly, Cole is at his best when he's hitting hardest, his work steeped in bebop traditions but personalized with his signature exuberance. The version of Alto Madness he brings to Chicago will include the estimable Henry Johnson, a guitarist conversant with a broad range of mainstream idioms. 9:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday at Andy's Jazz Club, 11 E. Hubbard St.; $15; 312-642-6805 or andysjazzclub.com
Eric Reed: Many listeners know Reed from his work with Wynton Marsalis, but he's also a virtuoso pianist and charismatic bandleader under his own name. He brings more than a touch of gospel to his pianism, as well as a propulsive sense of swing. 8 and 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday; 4, 8 and 10 p.m. Sunday; at the Jazz Showcase, 806 S. Plymouth Court; $20-$30; 312-360-0234 or jazzshowcase.com
Max Raabe and Palast Orchester: Music of the Weimar era in Germany between the world wars inspires both curiosity and dread, for the great artistic flowering of the 1920s was followed by unimagined horrors. Vocalist-narrator Raabe and his virtuoso ensemble specialize in the aesthetics and ambience of the period, and this time they'll stretch into music of America that flourished in Europe at the time, including songs of Irving Berlin and Cole Porter. 8 p.m. Friday at Symphony Center, 220 S. Michigan Ave.; $40-$95; 312-294-3000 or cso.org
Juli Wood: A versatile musician who travels easily among soprano, alto, tenor and baritone saxophones (she also sings), Wood performed recently with pianist Bob Dogan's quintet at the Jazz Showcase. Her newest release, "5 4 3 2 1," features her in quintets, quartets, trios and so on, but for this engagement she'll be duetting with pianist Kelly Brand. 6:30 p.m. Friday at Katerina's, 1920 W. Irving Park Road; no cover; 773-348-7592 or katerinas.com
ICP Orchestra: The International Composers Pool Orchestra from the Netherlands makes its way to Chicago only sporadically, but this performance will carry additional significance: The band will be performing the first concert at Constellation, a new venue located in the site of the old Viaduct Theater. The place has undergone some refurbishment, a process that will continue. In the meantime, by opening with the ICP Orchestra, Constellation begins to define itself as a home for new ideas in music. 9:30 p.m. Saturday at Constellation, 3111 N. Western Ave.; $12-$15; constellation-chicago.com
"Boogie-Woogie & Classic Blues": Few pianists dedicate themselves to the age-old art of boogie-woogie anymore, and fewer churches turn over their sanctuaries to the music. But the First Methodist Church at the Chicago Temple periodically has become a home for boogie-woogie and blues. German pianist Axel Zwingenberger played at the church's celebration of boogie-woogie pioneer Albert Ammons' centennial several years ago. Singer Lila Ammons, a granddaughter of Ammons and niece of tenor saxophone giant Gene Ammons, also performed, and they make a return appearance on a bill that also will feature Chicago boogie master Erwin Helfer. 7 p.m. Saturday at First United Methodist Church at the Chicago Temple, 77 W. Washington St.; a free-will offering will be taken; 312-236-4548 or chicagotemple.org
David Bromberg Quartet and Allen Toussaint: When Toussaint performed at the Chicago Jazz Festival in September, his silken vocals, elegant pianism and insightful transformations of classic jazz repertoire represented a striking contrast to the dilapidated Petrillo Music Shell, where he found himself performing. Thankfully, the Chicago Jazz Festival will be leaving the Petrillo for the far superior Pritzer Pavilion this summer, and Toussaint this weekend will be playing a venue that's the antithesis of the Petrillo: the intimate City Winery. It's a room ideally suited to the warmth of his delivery and the open-hearted, New Orleans sensibility of his music. Also on the double bill: another engaging eclectic, multi-instrumentalist Bromberg. 8 p.m. Saturday and 7 p.m. Sunday at City Winery, 1200 W. Randolph St.; $65-$85; 312-733-9463.
Beckie Menzie and Tom Michael: The popular Chicago cabaret duo brings unmistakable musicality to everything they perform, Michael's fervent tenor answered by Menzie's inventive vocals and jazz-tinged pianism. They're launching a new show, "Up Close and Personal," which will play Saturday nights in April. 8 p.m. Saturday at Davenport's, 1383 N. Milwaukee Ave.; $20 plus two-drink minimum; 773-278-1830 or davenportspianobar.com
Mwata Bowden: An imaginative Chicago reedist-bandleader-composer, Bowden will present "The Maze Factor Series," a collection of compositions inspired by geometric shapes and patterns. He'll be joined by alto saxophonist Edwin Daugherty, trumpeter Jerome Croswell, bassist Harrison Bankhead, guitarist Alex Wing and percussionist Dushun Mosley, making for what could be a powerhouse ensemble. 4 p.m. Sunday at Elastic, 2830 N. Milwaukee Ave., second floor; $10; 773-772-3616 or elasticarts.org
John Medeski: Anyone who has followed the work of the band Medeski, Martin & Wood knows that pianist Medeski stands as a formidable soloist in his own right. He proved the point in 2005 with a startlingly original performance at Symphony Center. His new release, "A Different Time" (on the revived OKeh Records label), marks his solo piano recording debut, and he'll be celebrating that album with this performance. 8 p.m. Sunday at the Old Town School of Folk Music's Maurer Hall, 4544 N. Lincoln Ave.; $22-$24; 773-728-6000 or oldtownschool.org
Joan Collasso: The veteran Chicago singer shares a double bill with the UIC Jazz Ensemble in a session presented by the nonprofit Hyde Park Jazz Society. 7:30 to 11:30 p.m. Sunday at Room 43, 1043 E. 43rd St.; $10; valet parking available; hydeparkjazzsociety.com
To read more from Howard Reich on jazz, go to chicagotribune.com/reich.
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