Chris Potter Quartet: Vertigo
Everyone nowadays wants to be a songwriter, it seems, and young Chris Potter is no exception. All of the songs on Vertigo, Potter's fifth date under his own name for Concord Jazz, were composed by the 27-year-old South Carolinian, and none of them, to these ears, serves as more than a convenient springboard for improvisation. As for the latter, it is shared primarily by Potter on tenor, bass clarinet or soprano (on "Wake Up"), guitarist Rosenwinkel and Potter's guest, Joe Lovano, who unlimbers his hard-edged, post-bop tenor on three numbers - "Long Walk, Short Pier," "This Will Be" and "Modeen's Mood" (the last dedicated to drummer Paul Motian). Potter, once a young lion, has been around for so long that he can uphold the label old veteran, even though age 30 isn't even on the horizon. His playing, once fiery and straightforward, has undergone subtle changes too; he's become mellower and more introspective, added depth as well as dissonance to the repertoire, even though he reverts often to the "more-notes-I-can-spray-the-better" school. Is the new approach more desirable? Depends on one's point of view (and how open his or her mind is to new concepts). Mine? It's open only a crack, I'm afraid. That is to say, the new and improved Potter is not displeasing but I preferred the earlier hard-boppin' model - however, that's only one person's opinion. As for Lovano, he moves easily into any given environment, and is solidly in the groove here, matching Chris stride for stride on his three numbers. The third solo voice, that of Rosenwinkel, is indeed a pleasant surprise. He knows his way around, and fares quite well whenever his turn at bat arrives. In fact, his presence is sorely missed on the only Potter/Lovano pairing - "Long Walk, Short Pier" - on which he's not included. Colley and Drummond are there largely to keep the rhythm flowing, which they do with characteristic ease and assurance. In fact, everyone plays well - although Potter and Lovano do scrape the blackboard of irksomeness from time to time - and if I were more enamored of Potter's still-developing prowess as a composer, the session would receive more than a lukewarm endorsement.
Shiva; Vertigo; Long Walk, Short Pier; Act III, Scene I; Fishy; This Will Be; Almost Home; Modeen's Mood; Wake Up (63:15).
Chris Potter, tenor and soprano saxophones, bass clarinet, piano; Kurt Rosenwinkel, guitar; Scott Colley, bass; Billy Drummond, drums; Joe Lovano, tenor saxophone (tracks 3, 6, 8).