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Saturday, September 22, 2007

Chris Potter - Follow The Red Line (Sunnyside, 2007) ****

This is a great jazz year. Many great albums. And this one too. Chris Potter is nothing less than a great sax player, but in his former endeavours he seemed a little bit tied up in the obligation to have fixed compositional environments. Here he opens up, and with great success. The live setting - at the Village Vanguard - helps in creating a very direct contact with the listener, with a clearer focus on performance than on polished composition, moving in my opinion more into jazz as it ought to be brought, authentic expressions of true emotions, stimulating mind, body and heart at the same time. And Potter's Underground band is the kind of A-Team with which you really can go to war, consisting of Adam Rogers on guitar, Craig Taborn on Fender Rhodes and Nate Smith on drums. This is not free jazz, but it's modern mainstream with the fun of a jam band, the skills of a classical jazz outfit and the freedom of the free-jazzer. The music swings, funks, rocks and jumps, with the musicians outperforming themselves. There are only 6 tunes, and for some of them I had serious doubts at first listening, like "Pop Tune # 1" which starts with the kind of predictable patterns which I abhor, but once you think you will start gagging, the tune shifts into a funky vamp not unlike the music Miles made in the early 70s and you're sold. But the four musicians are so unbelievably skilled and expressive that any tune they take on is worth listening to. And then, lo and behold, they start playing Togo, the African traditional which Ed Blackwell once adapted for Old And New Dreams, and one of the tunes I whistle every morning in the shower, and I'm sold again. Their version of "Togo" alone is worth the purchase of the record. The whole album is built on technique and musical background. That's the foundation. Then they throw in the fun and the concentrated creativity of improvization. Achieving that would already be a wonderful achievement for many bands. But they also add an emotional component that ties the listener to every note being played, and with a strong musical unity. Heart, Body and Mind : stimulating the three at the same time is a great achievement.