It's refreshing to see this kind of talent without having to wade through the masses - it was like the quintessential jazz experience: a handful of virtuosic guitarists playing to a dark, half-empty bar. It was a trance-inducing sort of environment perfect for summoning the spirit of Wes Montgomery.
Packed house or no packed house, band leader Bill Lancton was still without a doubt the happiest guy in the room - when it wasn't his turn to solo, he was watching the others with an impressed grin, occasionally nodding and chuckling at his companions when they went on a particularly inventive run.
To little surprise, Chicago guitarist Henry Johnson's playing was stellar. That's his reputation, and he's earned every bit of it - when he's involved, you know it'll be good.
What I wasn't expecting was the outstanding performance by 23-year-old Joel Tucker - the energy that he added both as a rhythm and lead guitarist, and without seeming the least bit intimidated by his accomplished band mates, made me somewhat sorry the place wasn't completely packed. This young jazz musician deserves some recognition. If he continues to play like he did on Saturday night, we can expect from him the same consistently awesome work that we do from Johnson.
And as usual, Steans played it cool throughout the performance, providing his silky solos and laying a backdrop of subtle rhythm without the slightest air of pretense. At the end of the show, he stepped down from the stage, checked his watch, and quietly made his way towards the kitchen, slipping seamlessly back into his role as the restaurant's head honcho.