A notable recent addition to the Chicago jazz scene, trumpeter Russ Johnson has fit right in with his ability to play a wide range of styles in a wide range of settings. During his years in New York, the Racine, Wis., native played with such heavies as Lee Konitz (he’s a member of the altoist’s New Nonet) and Bill Frisell and such emerging stars as Jenny Scheinman and Noah Preminger. In the Windy City, Johnson has performed in bands led by the distinguished likes of Dana Hall, Ken Vandermark and Aram Shelton.
Today, Johnson will lead a special quartet of his own featuring bass clarinetist Jason Stein, bassist Anton Hatwich and drummer Tim Daisy. They’ll be performing in support of a strong new album, Meeting Point. Capitalizing on the unusual contrast between its two horns, the band thrives on stretches of bold, built-in intensity as well as spare, relaxed interactions. Johnson comes from the same school as Dave Douglas with his hard-edged but fluent sound, but follows his own path with his compressed power and striking use of a mute. In Johnson and Stein, the quartet boasts two players who make you hear the music in a new way with much of what they do.