Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Chris Potter - Sirens (ECM, 2013)

Chris Potter paid his dues the old fashioned way, coming to New York as a young man and networking through a series of high profile positions as a sideman and then emerging as a bandleader of depth and vision. After a few years of playing with his semi-fusion band Underground he returns to acoustic jazz with this beguiling and atmospheric album. Potter leads this session with his original compositions as by playing tenor and soprano saxophone and bass clarinet accompanied by Craig Taborn on piano, David Virelles on keyboards, Larry Grenadier on bass and Eric Harland on drums. Basing an album’s worth of music on Homer’s The Odyssey is a lofty goal but the group rises to the occasion, manipulating mood and melody to develop a narrative sensibility that continues through the duration of the music. “Wine Dark Sea” opens the album with a yearning motif from the leader that gradually builds into stronger swells of saxophone. Strong but patient and graceful playing from the band develop into a powerful performance. There is a lighter sound on “Wayfinder” with rippling keyboards and percussion with a mysterious sounding saxophone building in. The double keyboard approach is particularly fascinating here as Taborn concentrates on traditional piano, while Virelles provides accents with prepared piano, celesta and harmonium. “Sirens” opens with bowed bass and barely audible piano. The music builds ever so slowly like the clarion call of the women of legend, calling forth in a dark and haunting manner across the sea. After the gravity of “Sirens,” “Penelope” goes in the opposite direction with a fun choppy up-tempo performance, with complex yet very tight band interplay. Potter takes a darker tone weaving between highs lows to build up tension, and then stepping out for a well developed piano, bass and drums interlude. This is an epic and serious album that proceeds without a hint of pretentiousness. The compositions and improvisations develop to tell a magical story in music and spirit. Sirens - amazon.com

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