Label: Edition Records, 2019
Personnel – Chris Potter: tenor and soprano saxophones, clarinets, flutes, sampler, guitars, keyboards, percussion; James Francies: keyboards; Eric Harland: drums; Linley Marthe: electric bass.
Chris Potter is one of the most influential saxophone players and composers on the scene and his new vibrant outing, Circuits, has enough energy and ample sense of adventure to blow you away. It’s a 21st-century musical journey infused with mordant M-base vibes, offering a cultivated sonic perspective based on an innovative intersection of the post-bop, funk, and electronic worlds.
Five of the nine tracks on the album are bass-less, performed by a core trio composed of Potter, who plays an array of instruments here (including guitar), prodigious keyboardist James Francies, and super drummer Eric Harland, who is better than never in this extra syncopated context. Bassist Linley Marthe joins them in the remaining tunes.
The two-minute horn-driven “Invocation” highlights the bass clarinet amidst the conductive lines that surround it. It serves as an introductory section for “Hold It”, an uplifting piece filled with a gospel-like tenor melody and impeccable accompaniment by the rhythm team. The resourceful trio not only demonstrates how far-reaching their rhythmic attacks can go but also how thoroughly they handle atmospheric passages imbued in electronics. Moreover, you can enjoy Harland’s unrestrained drumming, so rich in color and groove, and Potter’s out-of-this-world language and flawless control of the tenor saxophone.
Splendidly structured and arranged, “The Nerve” boasts spiritual Eastern sounds in its balmy embryonic phase before anchoring in a cool 5/4 groove set with Marthe’s fat bass lines, funk-rock-oriented drumming, and wonderful sweeps and voicings invented by Francies, who later shines on a solo piano passage.
Spirited vibes define both “Exclamation” - an eloquent, fast-paced, funky-oriented exercise with punchy solos from sax and keyboards - and the title track, an odd-metered delight of unmatchable fluidity, hooked in pumping basslines and featuring Francies’ expressionistic zigzags, horns, and Harland’s bursts of assertive drumming.
The dominant explosive dynamics are dropped down a bit on tunes like “Koutoume”, an urbane African dance with first-class percussive accompaniment; “Green Pastures”, which carries post-bop and R&B familiarity; and “Queen of Brooklyn”, a ballad melodically guided by soprano saxophone with backing flute and bass clarinet.
“Pressed for Time” closes out the album, placing relaxing melody over gorgeous, hip-hop-ish broken beats and quick-shifting chordal patterns prior to another explosive, incredibly bouncing affirmation by Potter.
The creative possibilities seem endless, and Circuits, providing unanticipated rhythmic tapestries, hip grooves, and blistering solos, is nothing short of a masterwork.
02 - Hold It ► 03 - The Nerve ► 09 - Pressed For Time