Chris Potter - Circuits

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.

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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.

Grade  A+

Grade A+

Favorite Track:
02 - Hold It ► 03 - The Nerve ► 09 - Pressed For Time


Chris Potter - The Dreamer Is The Dream

Label/Year: ECM, 2017

Lineup - Chris Potter: tenor and soprano saxophones, bass clarinet; David Virelles: piano; Joe Martin: double bass; Marcus Gilmore: drums.

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Saxophonist/composer Chris Potter is a force of nature. Extra sensitive, he displays an extraordinary facility in expressing his individuality, as well as interacting with his bandmates. 

Potter’s discography as a leader, which started in 1992, is replete of precious works. In recent times, his greatest showdown was Imaginary Cities (ECM, 2015), a record to cherish and listen unreservedly, but the new The Dreamer Is The Dream, also brings sumptuousness and no less absorbing sonorities.

Potter convenes a first-rate rhythm team that qualifies his writing purposes and musical vision - pianist David Virelles, bassist Joe Martin, and drummer Marcus Gilmore.

The ballad “Heart in Hand” exposes yearning and romantic elegance, starting with a peer-to-peer correspondence between Potter and Virelles. In a subdued way, Martin and Gilmore reinforce the foundation, just to let it go again moments later when the pianist embarks on an unaccompanied solo imbued with imaginary essence. The quartet’s passion is intensified prior to a finale where a shimmering intensity prevails. 

Ilimba” evokes the African continent in the title and evokes it in the rhythm. The percussive chimes of the ilimba, a lamellophone from Tanzania (it’s Potter who plays it), initiate a journey that gains texture and color with Virelles’ left-hand strokes perpetrated in a lower register. Suffused with freedom and glow, this culturally rich tune may easily get into your soul through Potter’s conversational prowess, which flames with off-kilter patterns and thrives with phenomenal melodic perspicacity. The complex swirling phrases by Virelles precede Gilmore’s multi-timbre drum solo before the reinstatement of the main theme.

This creative, forward-driving stretch can be enjoyed again on the expressionist “Yasodhara”, where its sultry post-bop is inflated with Oriental influences. Simultaneously inquisitive, vindicating, and beseeching, this adventure worths every bit of flare and fancy, and everyone is encouraged to spin around.

In order to vary tones and timbres, the title track, restrained in pace but emotionally expansive, embraces a graceful lyricism that comes out of Potter’s bass clarinet. After Martin’s solo, the composer switches to tenor sax to emphasize the finale. On the following track, “Memory and Desire”, he switches again to soprano, delivering eloquent elliptical phrasings that grow in a coruscating crescendo.

Closing the album, Martin and Gilmore boil a steady funk-tinged groove on “Sonic Anomaly”, while Virelles’ splendid comping and rhythmic blaze enliven the stylish trajectories taken by Potter.

Eschewing any sort of boredom, redundancy, or triviality, The Dreamer is the Dream is all about compositional sophistication materialized in a high-end jazz that lives from communication, balance, and authenticity.

         Grade  A+

         Grade A+

Favorite Tracks:
02 – Ilimba ► 04 – Memory and Desire ► 05 – Yasodhara

Aziza - Aziza (Holland / Potter / Loueke / Harland)

Dave Holland: bass; Chris Potter: tenor and soprano saxophones; Lionel Loueke: guitar; Eric Harland: drums.

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Aziza is the name of a brand new jazz supergroup of snappy influence that includes the bassist Dave Holland, the guitarist Lionel Loueke, the saxophonist Chris Potter, and the drummer Eric Harland.
Their self-entitled debut album is a remarkable artistic pearl that exhales both collective creativity and crisp individual improvisations.

It opens with the groundbreaking funk of “Aziza Dance”, a semi-robotic jubilation that features Potter and Loueke in sharp unisons and affirmative solos on top of the groove laid down by the grandiose rhythm section. The inventive guitarist, and author of this piece, whose quirky approach never lets me down, stands out by improvising with aplomb and originality while using a mesmerizing guitar effect.
The predominance of African and exotic rhythms are observable throughout the record. “Summer 15” is emulsified by Potter’s soprano during the initial melody and then tenor for the final theme; “Finding the Light” is peppered by the saxophonist’s in/out concept and Harland’s intelligent rhythm patterns; in “Sleepless Night”, Loueke shows his enormous influence and versatility, singing and opting for guitar distortion to exchange compelling phrases with Potter.

Even if the title suggests a walking bass, don’t expect to find it in “Walkin’ the Walk”, which thrives with an effervescent groove that obeys to a complex meter. Holland, simultaneously leader and team player, clarifies why he is the most desirable bassist on Earth. Potter and Harland channel their energy to provide unflagging verve.
In “Aquila”, the quartet changes the tempo, passing from a 6/8 to a 4/4 in the final section. Most of its flavor comes from Loueke’s aromatic comping. 
An alternative approach was used in the rhythmically acrobatic, “Blue Sufi”, which grabs influence from rock music while occasionally scatters eastern innuendos translated by Potter’s steadfast phrasing.

Using the jazz language as an intermediary, Aziza celebrates different cultures through a consummate liaison. The brilliance of these top musicians translates into a rewarding, nimble album. Indubitably, this is one of the year's best.

Favorite Tracks:
01 – Aziza Dance ► 03 – Walkin’ the Walk ► 08 – Sleepless Night