Without belittling the contributions of its leader, pianist Mark Soskin, One Hopeful Day is an album dominated by the presence of saxophonist Chris Potter. It's a substantial addition to Potter's discography, andfollowing his most recent own-name release, the widely feted if perhaps overly mannered Underground (Sunnyside Records, 2006) with guitarist Wayne Krantza return to his classicist roots. And while the music may not stretch any envelopes, it sure digs deep.
Though commissioned by the repertory-oriented, audiophile-friendly label Kind Of Blue as a mainly-standards set, One Hopeful Day isn't one of that company's decorous, preservationist projects. It's a full-on, force-eight gale and it will rattle cages. There are six standards, three of them partially re-imagined by Soskin, spanning Rodgers & Hart's "It's Easy To Remember" through Chick Corea's "Innerspace," and three in-the-tradition originals. All but the relatively restrained title track are played with pace, power and abandon.
Potter, aided and abetted by the fierce support of bassist John Patitucci and drummer Bill Stewart, is in turbulent form throughout: romping all over the saxophone from guttural deep-down bass to high-end split notes, his fat round tone with its sandpaper epidermis intact, singing out in all registers. It's curious that, despite a string of fine own-name albums stretching back to Presenting Chris Potter (Criss Cross, 1992), much of Potter's most memorable playing has been on other peoples' discs. Before One Hopeful Day, one thinks of his three-track contribution to pianist Enrico Pieranunzi's and drummer Paul Motian's Doorways (Cam Jazz, 2004), on which he shone brilliantly alongside the two older masters. Maybe Potter needs to be freed of the responsibility of overall musical direction before he can fully surrender to the moment and let himself go. Certainly, he has rarely done so as completely as he does here.
Soskin, even more than Potter, has made his reputation as a sidemanfirst with drummer Billy Cobham, then for close on fourteen years, with saxophonist Sonny Rollinsand One Hopeful Day, like the eight own-name albums before it, won't change that. For this time, Soskin is a sideman on his own album. But his contributions are considerable. His inventive recastings of "Bemsha Swing," "It's Easy To Remember" and "End Of A Love Affair," the simple but thoughtful arrangements and his own joyous, two-fisted playing, are also key to the album's success.
Above all though, Soskin had the generosity and good sense to let Chris Potter fly.
Personnel: Chris Potter: tenor saxophone (1-7), soprano saxophone (8); Mark Soskin: piano; John Patitucci: bass (1-8); Bill Stewart: drums (1-8); John Abercrombie: guitar (5,8).