Circuits is, stylistically, relatively far removed from Chris Potter's previous album, The Dreamer Is The Dream (ECM, 2017) but is certainly no less attractive. Whilst the earlier album is, generally, more sedate (with some exceptions), this record is full of heterogeneous, unanticipated delights and handbrake rhythm turns. That said, the short-ish opener, "Invocation," with Potter on bass clarinet, atypically evinces a Duke Ellington-ish charm with an emphasis on elegant counterpoint. This makes "Hold It" sound funky by contrast. But it's actually a taut, multi-tracked piece held in place by Eric Harland's crisp drumming.
The spacey sampling at the start of "The Nerve" gives way within a couple of minutes to an Eastern-influenced, time-complex number, underpinned by Linley Marthe's electric bass. Rhythmically, "Koutomé" has African overtones which are enhanced by the sparse bass clarinet lines that establish the melody. The title track is polyrhythmic and rock-infused, the horns are again multi-tracked and the piece is suffused with resonant bass guitar. It's a gripping, fascinating, near-ten minute foray. Harland's drumming towards the conclusion is particularly vibrant.
Both the pastoral "Green Pastures," with its delicate melody, and the wistful ballad-esque arrangement on "Queens Of Brooklyn," form a natural interlude from the surrounding livelier tunes. The helter-skelter approach to the appropriately-titled "Exclamation" renders it a complete blast, replete with exciting twists and turns. The set concludes with the keyboard-orientated "Pressed For Time," but again Harland's presence is essential, providing a vital, uncompromising beat. Circuits carries considerable visceral heft and largely thanks to Potter's multi-instrumental versatility there's an occasional big band feel to the tracks. In any event, this album demonstrates, once again, the mark of Potter's true virtuosity and ingenuity. Circuits is surely an early contender for album of the year.
Invocation; Hold It; The Nerve; Koutomé; Circuits; Green Pastures; Queens of Brooklyn;
Exclamation; Pressed For Time.
Chris Potter: tenor and soprano saxophones, clarinets, flutes, sampler, guitars, keyboards,
percussion; James Francies: keyboards; Eric Harland: drums; Linley Marthe: electric bass (3-5, 8).