If optimism in the face of adversity characterizes the jazz faithful, then count among the hard core the intrepid 200 or so who weathered a damp Ft. Dupont last night to hear the Buck Hill Quartet and the Wynton Marsalis Quintet.

Hill's group is as tight a foursome as you are likely to find. Working from the leader's originals--hardly unfamiliar material, that is--they still managed to convey an impression of the unpredictable and to reward the listener with a sense of surprise.

Hill's tone was muscular and his lines taut with tension on "Mitzi," and "Little Bossa" was delivered with staccato jabs in hoarse growls. Yet on the ballad that followed, his saxophonic voice was as soft as the light drizzle that intermittently fell during the set.

Pianist Marc Cohen inferred melodic fragments from Hill's phrases and reshaped them according to his own mainstream of the '80s vision, a vision, incidentally, that avoids the twin contemporary curses of chaotic exhibitionism and muddled sentimentality. Bassist Tommy Cecil and drummer Hugh Walker were a backbone rhythm team and, individually, two very exciting soloists.

Buck Hill opens for the Marsalis unit, whose several very recent appearances locally have convinced area jazz fans of its high quality, again this evening.