Saturday, February 23, 2019

Chris Potter - Circuits (Edition, 2019)

The brilliant saxophonist Chris Potter has built a remarkable career as a leader and a sideman for the like of luminaries like Dave Holland, Dave Douglas and Red Rodney. After stints with Verve and ECM, this is his first album for the Edition label, and he plays ​tenor and soprano ​saxophones, in addition to clarinets, flutes, sampler, guitars, keyboards, and percussion. Joining him are James Francies on​ keyboards, Eric Harland on​ drums and Linley Marthe on​ electric bass for about half of the tracks. This is more of a groove based album, melding the raw electric nature of his Underground band with the ethereal electronics of his wonderful Verve album Traveling Mercies, and using the energy of his new sidemen to push him to create new compositions to meet this mandate. By using the possibilities inherent in synthesizers and electronics, Potter is able to craft an album that has memorable themes, unexpected improvised sections and create music that is accessible while remaining exciting and forward looking. "Hold It" uses light saxophone and electronic tones, with crisp percussion and bubbling bass, gradually developing the layers of electronics to build a larger sound than seems possible from just a few instruments. The saxophone solo is complex, but Potter builds his work with with an architectural sensibility, brick by brick until an impressive edifice is built. He fits this powerful and passionate solo snugly between the electronics and the dynamic percussion, creating a track that is progressive and approachable at the same time. "The Nerve" grows from spare sounds, weaving in electronics, samples and flutes, which set the ground floor for the saxophone and percussion to enter the performance, with Potter achieving an appealingly dark tenor sound and stretching out for a solo over skeletal accompaniment of electric bass and drums with occasional keyboard chords. This gives him ample room to develop an excellent solo statement that is exciting and free wheeling while being filled with unexpected twists and turns. The title track "Circuits" has a swirling electronic undertow abutted by bass and drums, building a fast and funky theme that is complicated and potent in its musicality. Potter breaks out with a rhythmic and exciting solo improvisation that is aided and abetted by some excellent electric bass and drumming that keep driving the music forward and making for a very compelling performance on the whole. Slashing cymbals clear a path for a section of drums, bass and synth exploration, with everyone coming together finish the track with a flourish. "Green Pastures" is successful in building medium tempo funk behind the saxophone playing an unhurried theme that is then developed into a strong solo statement over a steady and crisp repetitive beat with some great flourishes to keep things interesting. Shimmering keyboards take over the middle section of the performance evoking a dreamlike state and engaging well with the drumming, leading to a strong and yearning saxophone conclusion. Wild keyboard textures break out on "Exclamation" giving the music a full sound with thrashing drums and saxophone adding to the exciting din, and leading to a tenor saxophone solo complemented by supple electric bass and nifty drumming, developing a progressive funk vibe that is taken to another level as the saxophone really stretches out. Circuits -

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