Illinois Jacquet, who came storming into jazz as a fiery 19-year-old tenor saxophonist with Lionel Hampton in 1941, is still playing solos that provoke listeners into immediate responses -- shouts of approval and shuffling dance steps.
Performing in Washington for the first time with his own group in more than a decade (he appeared at the White House Jazz Festival in July), Jacquet opened a six-night engagement last night at Blues Alley with a first set that had the packed house rocking.
The hornman, who helped usher in the trend of robust-toned saxophonist employing freak high note effects, thoroughly enjoyed himself. He even sang the blues and scat sang some jazz, not with much vocal ability but with plenty of gusto.
His saxophone playing, however, was warm and sensuous on "Darn That Dream" and machine-gun fast on "The Man I Love."
Jacquet, 56, a contemporary of bassist-composer Charles Mingus, who died Friday, called for a minute of silent meditation for his late colleague. The two, he said, performed together as early as 1943 -- and then he launched into "Robbin's Nest," a piece he popularized in the 1940s.
The saxophonist was ably accompanied by a combination of Washington and New York musicians -- guitarist Gray Sargent, pianist J. Eaton, bassist Mark Ellicott and drummer George "Dude" Brown.