Chris Potter Underground
September 10, 2008
For the past four years, Chris Potter has been forging ahead on the music scene with a new vision. Compare his 2004 release on Sunnyside, Lift: Live at the Village Vanguard, with the 2007 Sunnyside release Follow the Red Line. Both were recorded live at the Village Vanguard and clearly show Potter's creative train of thought in action. Among many of the differences is the fact that the Underground group has done away with swing. Instead, tight grooves and heavy back beats abide. This came to mind last night at the Regattabar (a premier Boston jazz venue) as the Underground played their first engagement in a series of dates leading toward the release of their new album due in the winter of 2009.
The first set showcased four original compositions together with the Billy Strayhorn standard, "Lotus Blossom." The originals have yet to be recorded and are new enough to require reading on the part of guitarist Adam Rogers and keyboardist Craig Taborn. And without a doubt, the musicians rose to the challenge of reading the new material. In fact, they seemed to welcome the change, and could be witnessed experimenting with the new sounds. Drummer Nate Smith's use of a shaker on a tune, still without a title, was intoxicating. Potter himself was maximizing each solo opportunity, often starting on tenor only to switch to bass clarinet, and then end the song on soprano. The effect was an inviting atmosphere for delving into new material.
Special mention must be made to the band's rhythmic unit, the trio of Adam Rogers, Craig Taborn, and Nate Smith. The past four years have allowed each player to become accustomed to one another's intuitive sense of interaction. Last night, Potter took full advantage of the powerful unit backing him. A single comping figure was often picked up by all three rhythm instruments and played in unison so that Potter could launch an effective onslaught of notes.
Although the room was far from sold out, the musicians got the crowd moving. Perhaps in this sense there is a similarity to Potter's music from four years agowhether swing or hard-hitting grooves, it still makes you want to dance.