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Chris Potter Underground: Ultrahang

Mark F. Turner By

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After simultaneous releases in 2007—The Red Line: Live at the Village Vanguard and Song For Anyone (both on Sunnyside Records)—saxophonist Chris Potter's alter-ego band, Underground, delivers Ultrahang, some of the funkiest, rawest and in- your-face jazz released in 2009.

An in-demand session player with artists including Patricia Barber, Dave Douglas, Paul Motian, Potter is also a prolific composer and bandleader. He's maintained the Underground group featuring drummer Nate Smith, Fender Rhodes pianist Craig Taborn and guitarist Adam Rogers, each outstanding in their own right. Together they've taken it to the streets via constant gigging, and it's evident from the music's tighter riffs, more entrenched grooves and smoldering performances, that their chemistry just keeps evolving.

The group's energy translates well from live gigs to the studio. Smith lays down the title track's smoking pulse, with Taborn providing knotty Rhodes work while Potter and Rogers share the funky melody à la James Brown soul. "Facing East" is the epitome of cool. A slow cooker where Rogers stretches out with a very hip solo, Potter backs it up with a throaty baritone before the band digs out a new path.

Where there's smoke, there's "Rumples." It totally rocks with an exhausting tempo accentuated by incredible sax and guitar unison lines and power solos: Rogers' metallic twangs, effects, and varied fuzz tones are mirrored by Potter's muscular free exploration. Yet there are moments of respite with the rustic sounds of Bob Dylan's "It Ain't Me Babe" and the ethereal essence of "Interstellar Signals."

The musicians are consummate—Taborn's composed and nimble facility ("Times Arrow"), Smith's multi-colored beats-within-the-beat ("Boots"), and Rogers' comping and lead work ("Small Wonder"), some of the guitarist's most progressive work to date. Potter's playing is unequivocal, but he continues to demonstrate his depth as a composer and leader. Ultrahang more than delivers, with music that gets down and dirty via Undergound, a band that simply takes no prisoners.

Track Listing: Ultrahang; Facing East; Rumples; It Ain't Me Babe; Time's Arrow; Small Wonder; Boots; Interstellar Signals.

Personnel: Chris Potter: tenor saxophone, bass clarinet; Adam Rogers: guitar; Craig Taborn: Fender Rhodes; Nate Smith: drums.

Title: Ultrahang | Year Released: 2009 | Record Label: ArtistShare

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