Just as you're about to really get into tenor saxophonist Chris Potter's funky unaccompanied solo on "7.5," the rest of the band charges in, led by Kevin Hays on an electric keyboard sounding like a ringing cell phone. It grabs your attention, and the band doesn't let go for the next fifteen minutes, with Hays soloing commandingly on piano, and Potter and the song's composer, drummer Bill Stewart, duetting in gripping, telepathic fashion. Stewart carries on with bassist Scott Colley before Potter returns, shadowed by Hays' touch tones.
Colley propels "What You Wish" as Potter lays line on top of line, intensifying the composition as he follows each idea. As the piece continues, Hays takes his turn, generating as much momentum as Potter before him. Potter starts "Stella by Starlight" with a delicate reading, the atmosphere handled by Stewart's continuous brushing, Colley's solid bass, and Hays' piano flourishes, before he opens his heart and gets strong supportive backing from the band.
The title track is complex, shifting among tempos and soloists so that it's three or four tunes in one. By the end, the band is in a race to the finish line, until they cross it and restate the melody to cool down. The lovely "Okinawa" features Potter's soprano and a minimalist piano solo echoed by Hays' simultaneous keyboard. The effect is ethereal and graceful, suggestive of a Japanese koto.
The program closes with a version of Mingus' "Boogie Stop Shuffle" in two parts. The first, a solo intro, puts Potter's round tone on display in a cascade of notes before finally taking aim at the melody, and the band joins in to swing the tune like it was meant to be swung. To tackle Mingus without a big band, you need a band that sounds big, and with Hays doubling on electric and acoustic keys, together with the hard swing of Stewart and Colley, the quartet manages to sound twice its size.
Track Listing: 7.5; What You Wish; Stella By Starlight; Lift; Okinawa; Boogie Stop Shuffle Sax Intro; Boogie Stop Shuffle
Personnel: Chris Potter (tenor and soprano saxophones), Kevin Hays (piano, Fender Rhodes), Scott Colley (bass), Bill Stewart (drums, percussion)
Title: Lift: Live at the Village Vanguard
| Year Released: 2004
| Record Label: Sunnyside Records