A SPECIAL concert at the 1982 Kool Jazz Festival in New York presented some of the most promising new faces in jazz -- "The Young Lions," as they were called. Among the musicians featured were drummer-vocalist Ronnie Burrage and multi- instrumentalist John Purcell. Now Burrage and Purcell have teamed up with bassist Anthony Cox in a group called Third Kind of Blue, and the trio's eponymous debut album could hardly be more enjoyable.

Since each member of the group has benefitted from previous work experience with jazz veterans such as Jack DeJohnette and Muhal Richard Abrams, it's no surprise that the nine pieces that make up this album are often inventive and always colorful. What is surprising is that, despite the group's youth, the performances are focused and mercifully free of the aimless noodling that undermines so many albums by jazz newcomers with a flair for the unconventional.

Also refreshing is the variety of moods evoked on this album. Much of the credit for that must go to Purcell, a sublime melodist, whose versatility extends from saxophones to flutes, bass clarinet, oboe, English horn and beyond. The album's highlights -- "In the Realm of Thought," "Q.W.," "Ballad After Us" and "Opening" -- derive much of their charm from his performances, while Burrage and Cox supply the muscle.

THIRD KIND OF BLUE -- "Third Kind of Blue" (Minor Music 006); appearing Friday and Saturday at the One Step Down.