Chris Potter: Underground and Hands
Acclaimed saxophonist Chris Potter has already earned two recording credits for 2006, though on remarkably different releases. The firsta Potter-led session entitled Undergroundfinds him in the electrifying company of guitarists Wayne Krantz and Adam Rogers, keyboardist Craig Taborn and drummer Nate Smith. The second albumDanish pianist Kasper Villaume's Handssees his sax join a more traditional barnstorming quartet rounded out by Chris Minh Doky (bass) and Ali Jackson (drums). Outside of Potter himself, these two releases have little in commonspeaking, as they do, in different jazz tongues. However, both are well worth exploring.
With Underground, we encounter exactly what the album's title suggestsa blend of voices, beneath the mainstream, at times dark, rich and earthy in tone. Of the nine tracks included, six are penned by Potter, each nicely tailored to the group's collective identity. Most notable among these six are the tightly wrangled bedlam of "New Best Western , "The Wheel with its four-way fragments weaving in knots over a single repeated phrase and the title track in which the groove is so deep and growling that the 11 minutes it stretches across are almost too much to bear. Underground is a loose yet charged affair, varied yet nicely tied in together and manages to retain the rough edge and fluidity of a live performancean energy toward which this group clearly strives.
As for Kasper's Villaume's Hands, again we are given what the title implies. By the nimble fingers of the album's quartet, notes bend and swing and flatten by the armful. Unlike Underground's freer groove, this session is straight-ahead with all the trimmings. Over its eight robust numbers, Hands covers a broad range of moods and rhythms. On the opening track, for instance, the ensemble winds its way, with swiftness and dexterity, up and down Monk's "Green Chimneys . On Villaume's own "Cloudy & Blue , by contrast, he and Potter restrain their expressions to a melancholic pace, while Minh Doky and Jackson color the gloom with bends and brushes, respectively. Both recordings offer nothing less than a set of skillfully composed songs, played with feeling and vigor. And though they may not change the world, these albums certainly make for a memorable evening.
Tracks and Personnel
Tracks: Next Best Western; Morning Bell; Nudnik; Lotus Blossom; Big Top; The Wheel; Celestial Nomad; Underground; Yesterday.
Personnel: Chris Potter: tenor saxophone; Wayne Krantz: guitar; Craig Taborn: fender rhodes; Nate Smith: drums; Adam Rogers: additional guitar on "The Wheel and "Yesterday .