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Chris Potter Quartet at Village Vanguard

Tyran Grillo By

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Chris Potter Quartet
Village Vanguard
Greenwich Village, NY
February 14, 2016

After showing so strongly at New York's 2016 Winter Jazzfest, Chris Potter and his quartet with pianist David Virelles, bassist Joe Martin, and drummer Marcus Gilmore took the Village Vanguard by weeklong storm. The final performance dropped on Valentine's Day during this winter's coldest snap, filling the evening air with more than enough passion to combat the freeze.

Among Potter's many gifts—he is one of the great jazz composers and saxophonists—are his sense of narrative and body language. In a live setting, one can appreciate the architecture of both his tunes and his solos, all while marveling at the sheer musculature of his relationship to the reed. He possesses one of the most powerful embouchures in the business, one that gives him all the control he needs to lose control.

To that end, he plowed through walls of new material slated for appearance on their next ECM joint, to be recorded in March of 2016. As nameless as they were naked, the tunes were full-blooded organisms. Some, like the opener, were impressionistic and soaring, evolving in real time to the rhythm of Virelles's counterpoint. Others, like the one that followed by segue of an electronically enhanced African thumb piano, mined a funkier aesthetic. Potter unpacked a staggering amount of tricks from his improvisational bag, never losing sight of the savannah laid down by his rhythm section. On that note, Gilmore proved to be the broadest colorist of the night, working into double time with Martin in the final stretch with such vigor it was a wonder the sticks didn't just sprout wings and dart off into oblivion. Potter went briefly electric again in this tune, eliciting bird calls from his soprano and painting the boldest and broadest strokes of the night with that thinner brush. Virelles responded to Potter's angular switch to tenor with a tactile blues, turning chaos into groove and groove into chaos.

Potter and friends spun a sweet center in between. His bass clarinet intro sung with an emotional urgency appropriate for the holiday before relaying on his mainstay horn with Virelles, whose hands this music fit like a glove. With enough continuity and poise for a thousand concerts still, the band screeched, flourished, and sighed its way through a complete story.

All it needs now is a title.
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