Monday, December 10, 2007

Chris Potter - Follow the Red Line: Live at the Village Vanguard (Sunnyside, 2007)

Saxophonist and composer Chris Potter's second live album in a few years further charts his development as both a player and improviser. This full length CD has five very long improvisations, often employing knotty twists and turns that keeps the music fresh and invigorating. Joining him here are Adam Rogers on guitar; Craig Taborn on electric piano and Nate Smith on drums. Potter shows a great deal of confidence by allowing the music to stretch out into abstract territory, he gives the music a lot of room to evolve but it never escapes the group's control. “Train” opens the set, and much like a locomotive, it does take a little while to build up a head of steam, but then things really take off with Potter billowing out lengthy lines of tenor over Taborn's bubbling rhodes and Rogers' probing and angular guitar while Nate Smith keeps the engine room cooking. An exploratory feel pervades the other up-tempo cuts on the album as well. Much like the Dave Holland Quintet (which both Potter and Smith are a part of) the lengthy improvisations become journeys into the heart of jazz where nothing is taken for granted, and teamwork takes precedence over individual glory. That said, it must be noted that Potter's tone on tenor saxophone have developed into a deep mahogany color, that can be traced back through Coltrane and Rollins to the musical father of them all, Coleman Hawkins. There's a stentorian depth to his tenor that while never ponderous still speaks with a great deal of gravity. This is a very enjoyable and thoughtful set of modern jazz. It demands close, repeated listening, and rewards it immensely.

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