Monday, June 08, 2009

Chris Potter - Ultrahang (ArtistShare, 2009)

Saxophonist and composer Chris Potter takes matters into his own hands on this project for the musician supported Artists Share label, allowing fans to become a part of the process and making available videos and exclusive content to those that support his endeavor. Potter plays tenor saxophone and bass clarinet, with Adam Rogers on guitar, Craig Taborn on keyboards and Nate Smith on drums. The music they make has a hard edged streetwise feel to it as if they are trying to channel some of the gritty energy of a 70’s New York City crime drama into their ultra modern jazz. This approach is not retro at all, and works very well, allowing the band to make exciting and viscerally compelling music. “Ultrahang” opens the album in an up-tempo fashion with a muscular, strutting melody. A deep and gutsy tenor saxophone and the funky Fender Rhodes, guitar and drums set the pace for the album. “Facing East” has Potter juggling bass clarinet and tenor saxophone and Rogers guitar aiming for a Pete Cosey funky snarl. “Rumples” is one of the highlights of the album, beginning at a grinding tempo with the guitar in complex harmony, before the guitar breaks out in a hot solo over a hard and uncompromising backbeat. Potter’s tenor sax muscles in deep and strong, and gets progressively funkier and takes nice unaccompanied interludes. “It Ain’t Me, Babe” slows things down to a nice melodic mid-tempo, reverent and slowing building in emotion. “Small Wonder” builds to a strong and almost effortless sounding tenor solo before giving way to some edgy guitar. “Boots” is another great highlight from this album, taking its time and slowly building some slithering guitar backed by an ever shifting beat, and then after a drum solo Potter absolutely kills with a deep digging bluesy wail that would strip paint at twenty paces, gritty and dark, swinging his saxophone like the knife of a hardened street tough. After that summit, things slow down with “Interstellar Signals” exploring abstract soundscapes and Joni Mitchell’s “Ladies of the Canyon” bringing out the lyrical side of the band. This was a really impressive project, possibly Potter’s best album yet. The dark and dirty landscape created by the electric piano, distorted guitar and drums is beautifully illuminated the stellar saxophone playing throughout.
Ultrahang -

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