Learn How

We need your help in 2018

Support All About Jazz All About Jazz is looking for 1,000 backers to help fund our 2018 projects that directly support jazz. You can make this happen by purchasing ad space or by making a donation to our fund drive. In addition to completing every project (listed here), we'll also hide all Google ads and present exclusive content for a full year!

485

Chris Potter: Underground

John Kelman By

Sign in to view read count
At only 35, saxophonist Chris Potter has amassed a surprisingly large discography—over a dozen records as a leader, and collaborations that include a marathon eight-year relationship with bassist Dave Holland. His technical prowess, robust tone and uncanny control are matched by a seemingly endless imagination, allowing him to build extended solos that never lose focus. And yet, despite his emergence as one of the most important saxophonists of his generation, there's always been a lingering feeling of promise yet to be fully realized.

Until now. With Underground Potter delivers the album that his consistently impressive past efforts only suggested was possible. Combining complex and emotionally wide-reaching compositions with often knotty, yet always accessible grooves, Potter has finally fashioned an album that, more than announcing his potential, delivers it from start to finish with a clear voice.

Lift: Live at the Village Vanguard (Sunnyside, 2004) documented a band that had already been supplanted by a new quartet featuring perennially under-appreciated guitarist Wayne Krantz, ubiquitous keyboardist Craig Taborn and drummer Nate Smith. Guitarist Adam Rogers guests on two tracks here, but for the most part Underground is about this quartet's impressive chemistry, which has been honed over time.

For groups wanting to dispense with a bassist yet retain a broad-spectrum fullness, Taborn is becoming an increasingly popular choice. His work in saxophonist Tim Berne's Science Friction and Hard Cell groups has demonstrated the kind of left-hand/right-hand independence that allows him to be more than a single-minded accompanist. As a soloist he's capable of developing purposeful ideas, while at the same time maintaining staggeringly idiosyncratic riff-based lines with his left—doubling, in fact, with Krantz on the powerful "Big Top," which has the energy of fusion without its excess.

Despite the extended length of many tracks, Underground is surprisingly fat-free. When Smith replaced Billy Kilson in Dave Holland's quintet and big band, it became clear that while he is every bit as capable of complex polyrhythms and irregular meters, he's also more economical in style. On the funky "find the one" challenge of "Next Best Western," his ability to maintain a visceral groove despite moving across ever-shifting bar lines is nothing short of remarkable.

Krantz's inability to reach the larger audiences that contemporaries like Rogers and Kurt Rosenwinkel are enjoying is curious. He's as harmonically modernistic a player as either, but with a grittier rockiness that doesn't preclude greater subtlety on the more ethereal "Celestial Bell."

Potter's skill at fashioning narrative-based solos has been honed, to a large extent, through his eight-year relationship with Holland. But more than merely transferring lessons learned as a performer to his own project, Underground represents Potter's best and most consistent writing to date. And his ability to reinvent Billy Strayhorn's well-worn "Lotus Blossum" into an atmospheric rubato tone poem, perfectly in context with his own more contemporary aesthetic, is further evidence of an increasingly firmly fashioned conceptual voice.

Potter is by no means at his creative peak—or so we can only hope—but with Underground he has made his most personal and successful statement to date.

Track Listing: Next Best Western; Morning Bell; Nudnik; Lotus Blossom; Big Top; The Wheel; Celestial Nomad; Underground; Yesterday.

Personnel: Chris Potter: tenor saxophone; Wayne Krantz: guitar; Craig Taborn: Fender Rhodes; Nate Smith: drums; Adam Rogers: guitar (6,9).

Title: Underground | Year Released: 2006 | Record Label: Sunnyside Records


Tags

comments powered by Disqus

More Articles

Read Lattice CD/LP/Track Review Lattice
by John Sharpe
Published: December 14, 2017
Read I Think I’m Going To Eat Dessert CD/LP/Track Review I Think I’m Going To Eat Dessert
by Mark Corroto
Published: December 14, 2017
Read Celebrating William Parker at 65 CD/LP/Track Review Celebrating William Parker at 65
by Victor L. Schermer
Published: December 14, 2017
Read Eternal Life CD/LP/Track Review Eternal Life
by Jerome Wilson
Published: December 14, 2017
Read Baby It's Cold Outside CD/LP/Track Review Baby It's Cold Outside
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: December 13, 2017
Read Wrong Turns And Dead Ends CD/LP/Track Review Wrong Turns And Dead Ends
by Mark Sullivan
Published: December 13, 2017
Read "Peninsular" CD/LP/Track Review Peninsular
by Hrayr Attarian
Published: April 16, 2017
Read "Edit Peptide" CD/LP/Track Review Edit Peptide
by Glenn Astarita
Published: August 11, 2017
Read "Over the Rainbow" CD/LP/Track Review Over the Rainbow
by Paul Rauch
Published: February 24, 2017
Read "Serpentines" CD/LP/Track Review Serpentines
by John Sharpe
Published: December 15, 2016
Read "Beloved" CD/LP/Track Review Beloved
by Mike Jurkovic
Published: October 10, 2017
Read "The Things We Did Last Summer" CD/LP/Track Review The Things We Did Last Summer
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: August 5, 2017

Support All About Jazz's Future

We need your help and we have a deal. Contribute $20 and we'll hide the six Google ads that appear on every page for a full year!