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Chris Potter - The Sirens

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Wednesday February 13, 2013

from Something Else! Reviews

Chris Potter – The Sirens
By S. Victor Aaron

Combined with his own vast facility and adventurous spirit, stints with Steely Dan, Dave Holland, Paul Motian and most recently, Pat Metheny’s Unity Band have made Chris Potter one of the best known and accoladed saxophonists of his generation. Tracing his solo career on record, we can see an increasingly curiosity and risk taking that’s pushed his artistry forward with every new release. Eventually, that brought him into the realm of electric jazz, and he’s carved out his own niche by staying adventurous, and, as the younger folks say these days, “keeping it real.” We’ve chronicled his foray into more modern sounds on this space and Ultrahang was damned near my favorite fusion record of 2009.

Now, Potter returns to acoustic, his first all-unplugged album credited solely to him since 2001′s This Will Be but does so as a changed man. The Sirens is an album worthy of the ECM Records debut that it is. Save for Potter’s recognizable tone and technical prowess, this record bears less resemblance to the post bop records of the 1990s and in some ways it more acts as an extension of the Chris Potter Underground record of the mid to late 2000′s. It’s an album of a former child prodigy who has entered his 40′s with the maturity to match his talent. Retaining pianist Craig Taborn from the Underground, Potter adds Larry Grenadier on double bass, former Holland band mate Eric Harland on drums and a textural role for David Virelles on prepared piano, celeste and harmonium.

Upon encountering the shifty, syncopated funk of “Wine Dark Sea” and the mysterious groove of “Wayfinder” and the freewheeling way the band tackles these songs, you find elements present that are borrowed from Underground. Potter uses his big, wide tone on the former to soar above everyone else, making a complex melody seem simple, and Taborn races ahead and falls behind the beat on his solo, creating creases in the flow of his solo. The latter song features Virelles playing celeste and prepared piano alongside Taborn, creating an exotic sonority in the midst of the increasingly insistent pulse.

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