Sunday, August 21, 2011

Chris Potter and the DR Big Band - Transatlantic (Red Dot Music, 2011)

Saxophonist Chris Potter has become one of the leading lights of the mainstream jazz scene, playing with the likes of Dave Holland and Paul Motian, and recording several albums as a leader. But seldom have we had the opportunity to hear him as the featured soloist in a big band. On this project, he is the composer, arranger and principal soloist with the Danish Radio Big Band, and this gives us a chance to hear several different aspects of Potter as a complete musician rather than just a great saxophonist. Standout tracks include "The Steppes" which has a snarling electric guitar solo, like something out of Potter's Underground or Ultrahang bands, giving way to the horns that slowly build in and take over. Potter takes a strong tenor saxophone solo of mounting tension, before the horns return to frame him, before once again breaking him loose for a solo tag ending. "New Years Day" shows the horns riffing at a medium tempo opening. Chris Potter builds his solo like a master architect, piece by piece adding to the music and shaping it into a strong aerodynamic statement over bass and drum support. Punctuating horns from the ensemble add some fire, before dropping back to a low end arrangement that concludes with a sweet buttery trumpet (or flugelhorn) solo. Mellow tenor saxophone with just bass and drums in accompaniment open "Narrow Road" with the arrangement for light and patient horns building in a swirling, brassy manner. Patient tenor saxophone probes around the setting, weaving in and around before taking an unaccompanied break. The potent "Abyssinia" takes its strength from a strong, brassy opening, giving Potter the updraft to power his solo and allow him to soar like a bird in flight with a powerful, confident and very well paced solo. After an electric guitar interlude, powerful horns and Potter's graceful saxophone strike the final blow over strong and agile drumming. This was a well done album, Chris Potter's compositions, arrangements and especially his saxophone playing were uniformly excellent. Hopefully we'll continue to hear him in a variety of formats from small groups to big band, because he is clearly a man of many talents and interests. Transatlantic - amazon.com

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