Thursday, June 03, 2004

Chris Potter - Lift: Live at the Village Vanguard (Verve, 2004)

Chris Potter is in such demand as a sideman that his career as a bandleader has been a little overshadowed. His duties touring and recording with the Dave Holland Quintet (which is pretty much booked until hell freezes over) chew up the majority of his time, but he’s managed to squeeze in some time to appear under his own name both live and on record.

This live record fits the bill on both counts with Potter’s regular band recorded live at the hallowed Village Vanguard. His band members include Scott Colley on bass, Kevin Hays on acoustic and electric piano and Bill Stewart on drums. The first song is a Potter original, “7.5” with Hays coming in on electronics, giving the song a disjointed feel, something akin to Jason Moran’s “Ringing My Phone (Straight Outta Istanbul)” from his live record last year – that was the song with the sampled electronic voices which gave the music a fractured feel much like the electronics do here. This is something of a nod to Potter’s excellent Traveling Mercies album which experimented with electronics.

After that, Hays stays on acoustic piano for the most part and things settle down to a solid modern jazz groove. This band has been together on and off as much as they can given everybody’s busy schedule and they’re pretty tight. Some members of the group have spent time with the Mingus Big Band including the leader and that experience pays off in their rendition of Mingus’ “Boogie Stop Shuffle” which originally appeared on the Mingus Ah-Um album. It starts here with Potter taking an a cappella tenor saxophone solo, which is quite a high wire act, soloing without the band. This lasts for about four minutes and then the band comes in blasting with an extended improvisation – Mingus would be proud.

All in all, this is an excellent live snapshot of a band on the rise. The music is first rate and the disc is recommended.

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