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Chris Potter Underground Orchestra, "Imaginary Cities"

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Wednesday November 04, 2015

From Jazz Police

Chris Potter Underground Orchestra, “Imaginary Cities” (ECM, 2015)
By: Andrea Canter

Imaginary Cities is the recording debut of Chris Potter’s new Underground Orchestra, an expansion of his long-standing Underground Quartet (Adam Rogers, Craig Taborn and Nate Smith). With Potter on tenor and soprano saxes as well as bass clarinet, Rogers on guitars, Taborn on piano and Smith on drums, the orchestra also includes Steve Nelson on vibraphone and marimba, Fima Ephron on bass guitar, Scott Colley on double bass, and a full string quartet of Mark Feldman and Joyce Hammann on violins, Lois Martin on violia and Dave Eggar on cello. This is Potter’s second foray into larger-scale orchestration, following his 2007 Sunnyside release, Song for Anyone, which featured a similar core of strings as well as some additional winds.

The title refers to a four-part suite (“Compassion”, “Dualities”, “Disintegration”, “Rebuilding”), a sweeping classically informed epic that launches with the crystal tinklings of Taborn’s piano as strings and tenor sax sound the melody line with a generally hopeful groove. The second segment contains a potential string/marimba score for a modern ballet that plays off against a horn-centered jazz ensemble. “Disintegration” again features Taborn’s dark and beautiful wanderings as well as eerie, delicate ensemble commentary flotaing beneath Potter’s soprano. In a Charles Lloyd-ish vein, the suite closes with “Rebuilding,” conjuring Coltrane in its soaring, prayerful quality, humbled by the universe as well as inspired by it.

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