THE DOZENS: ESSENTIAL CHRIS POTTER by Jacob Teichroew

Chris Potter is a powerful force in the world of modern jazz. His work as a sideman and as a leader demonstrates a broad array of influences, some deep within the jazz tradition, and others from recent popular trends or from 20th century classical music. No matter what the context, Potter’s virtuosity and sensibility to the ensemble allow his playing to thrive and swell within the group. These dozen recordings represent just a fraction of Potter’s recording career, but each marks an important step in his growth as a master of the jazz saxophone.



    

Chris Potter: Juggernaut

Track

Juggernaut

Artist

Chris Potter (soprano, alto, tenor saxes)

CD

Presenting Chris Potter (Criss Cross Jazz 1067 CD)

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Musicians:

Chris Potter (soprano, alto, tenor saxes),

John Swana (trumpet), Kevin Hays (piano), Christian McBride (bass), Lewis Nash (drums)

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Composed by Chris Potter

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Recorded: New York, December 29, 1992

Albumcoverpresentingchrispotter

Rating: 83/100 (learn more)

This track, from Potter's debut recording as a leader, foreshadows the brilliant career that lay ahead of the young saxophonist. He was 21 when this CD was made, although the language with which he improvises is far beyond his years. Reminiscent of Joe Henderson, Potter's solo demonstrates his virtuosic technique, and provides a glimpse of the rhythmic and motivic techniques he perfects and employs in his later work.

Reviewer: Jacob Teichroew


Chris Potter: Amsterdam Blues

Track

Amsterdam Blues

Artist

Chris Potter (tenor sax)

CD

Unspoken (CCD-4775-2)

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Musicians:

Chris Potter (tenor sax), John Scofield (guitar), Dave Holland (bass), Jack DeJohnette (drums).

Composed by Chris Potter

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Recorded: New York, August 19, 1997

Albumcoverchrispotter-unspoken

Rating: 85/100 (learn more)

This recording demonstrates Potter's modern approach to the blues. Potter's solo consists of angular lines and quirky intervallic melodies that merely hint at the traditional blues harmony, and his phrases loosely drape over the contours of the well-known blues structure. This gives the impression that the song is hanging in the balance between tradition and innovation.

Reviewer: Jacob Teichroew


Joanne Brackeen featuring Chris Potter: In Vogue

Track

In Vogue

Group

Joanne Brackeen Group

CD

Pink Elephant Magic (Arkadia 70371)

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Musicians:

Chris Potter (tenor sax), Joanne Brackeen (piano),

Kurt Elling (vocals), Nicholas Payton (trumpet), Dave Liebman (sax), John Patitucci (bass), Horacio “El Negro” Hernandez (drums)

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Composed by Joanne Brackeen

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Recorded: New York, June 2-3, 1998

Albumcoverjoannebrackeen-pinkelephantmagic

Rating: 90/100 (learn more)

Chris Potter was nominated for a Grammy for best instrumental solo on this track. Brackeen's composition is marked by beautifully haunting harmonies that seem just on the verge of resolving, but never quite get there. Potter's solo highlights this subtle feature. He toys with weaving, cascading lines conjoining sections of sequenced motives and gestures that have a striving and longing quality. The melancholy nature of his playing emphasizes the wistful and yearning tone of the composition.

Reviewer: Jacob Teichroew


Chris Potter: Jazzpar Suite – Part 6 – Folk Tune

Track

Jazzpar Suite – Part 6 – Folk Tune

Artist

Chris Potter (tenor sax)

CD

This Will Be: The Jazzpar Prize (Storyville 793536)

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Musicians:

Chris Potter (tenor sax),

Kasper Tranberg (cornet), Kevin Hays (piano), Jacob Fisher (guitar), Scott Colley (bass), Billy Drummond (drums)

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Composed by Chris Potter

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Recorded: Denmark, March 9-12, 2000

Albumcoverchrispotter-thiswillbe-thejazzparprize

Rating: 85/100 (learn more)

In 2000, Chris Potter became the youngest musician to ever receive Denmark's prestigious Jazzpar prize. This recording features a suite that was written specifically for the ceremony at which Potter was awarded the prize. "Folk Tune" is a contrapuntal groove piece that is perhaps influenced by the rhythmic cycles and melodies of Eastern European folk songs. It foreshadows two later recordings by Potter: its groove-based solo section is the basis for many of the tracks on Lift: Live at the Village Vanguard, and its extended form and classical music influence are elements that Potter explores on his 2007 Song for Anyone.

Reviewer: Jacob Teichroew


Chris Potter: The Source

Track

The Source

Artist

Chris Potter (soprano & tenor saxes, bass clarinet, Chinese wood flute)

CD

Gratitude (Verve 731454943321)

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Musicians:

Chris Potter (soprano & tenor saxes, bass clarinet, Chinese wood flute),

Kevin Hays (keyboards), Scott Colley (bass), Brian Blade (drums)

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Composed by Chris Potter

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Recorded: New York, September 27-28, 2000

Albumcoverchrispotter-gratitude

Rating: 89/100 (learn more)

Gratitude is an homage to the masters of jazz saxophone, and it emphasizes Potter's roots in the jazz tradition. It also marks the point at which Potter's style is fully developed. "The Source" is dedicated to the energy of John Coltrane's playing, which Potter comes close to matching. On this track he demonstrates his ability to slide in and out of the harmonies. Whereas on earlier recordings, his "out" playing can be shocking to the ears, in this case it has been smoothed over, and is surprising and exciting. This approach to harmony is a defining feature of Potter's improvisations.

Reviewer: Jacob Teichroew


Dave Holland featuring Chris Potter: The Balance

Track

The Balance

Group

Dave Holland Quintet

CD

Extended Play: Live at Birdland (ECM 186465)

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Musicians:

Chris Potter (soprano & tenor saxes), Dave Holland (bass),

Robin Eubanks (trombone), Steve Nelson (vibes), Billy Kilson (drums)

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Composed by Dave Holland

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Recorded: live at Birdland, New York, November 2001

Albumcoverdaveholland-extendedplay-liveatbirdland

Rating: 89/100 (learn more)

Potter's soprano playing proves to be just as rich as his tenor playing. His extended solo on this live recording begins as Potter allows a motivic theme to unfold and build over the course of two minutes. There is much rhythmic interplay between Potter and Billy Kilson on drums. The band's intensity grows steadily, encouraging Potter to eventually unleash a fury of sixteenth-note runs and angry repeated riffs over driving backgrounds.

Reviewer: Jacob Teichroew


Dave Douglas featuring Chris Potter: The Infinite

Track

The Infinite

Group

Dave Douglas Quintet

CD

The Infinite (Bluebird/RCA 09026-63918-2RE1)

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Musicians:

Chris Potter (tenor sax), Dave Douglas (trumpet),

Uri Caine (Fender Rhodes), James Genus (bass), Clarence Penn (drums)

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Composed by Dave Douglas

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Recorded: New York, December 16-18, 2001

Albumcoverdavedouglas-theinfinite

Rating: 86/100 (learn more)

This Dave Douglas composition is built on relatively simple harmonic and rhythmic material because like most of Douglas's pieces, its mood is central. During his stint in Douglas's group, Chris Potter demonstrated his imaginative improvisational approach in a setting that allowed more freedom than traditional jazz. His solo on this track consists of menacing gestures that frequently scream into the altissimo register of the tenor saxophone.

Reviewer: Jacob Teichroew


Chris Potter: Megalopolis

Track

Megalopolis

Artist

Chris Potter (tenor sax, flute, bass clarinet)

CD

Traveling Mercies (Verve 044001824326)

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Musicians:

Chris Potter (tenor sax, flute, bass clarinet), John Scofield (guitar),

Elizabeth Dotson Westphalen (vocals), Kevin Hays (keyboards), Adam Rogers (guitar), Scott Colley (bass), Bill Stewart (drums), Dave Binney (samples)

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Composed by Chris Potter

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Recorded: New York, January 27-29, 2002

Albumcoverchrispotter-travelingmercies

Rating: 85/100 (learn more)

On his second date for Verve Records, Potter's playing takes a strident tone, matched by the urgent drumming of Bill Stewart. Potter's solo, played over a lush landscape formed partially by John Scofield's and Kevin Hays's accompaniment, and partially by Dave Binney's electronic textures, demonstrates thrilling technical virtuosity. Making use of funk, rock and electronic music influences, this recording represents a hard-driving facet of modern jazz.

Reviewer: Jacob Teichroew


Chris Potter: Lift

Track

Lift

Artist

Chris Potter (soprano and tenor saxes)

CD

Lift: Live at the Village Vanguard (SSC3022)

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Musicians:

Chris Potter (soprano and tenor saxes),

Kevin Hays (piano and Fender Rhodes), Scott Colley (bass), Bill Stewart (drums)

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Composed by Chris Potter

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Recorded: live at the Village Vanguard, New York, December 13-14, 2002

Albumcoverchrispotter-lift-liveatthevillagevanguard

Rating: 88/100 (learn more)

This Chris Potter composition is marked by rhythmic modulations that increase the tempo and create the impression of music being propelled upward. Potter's solo takes place over the second modulation, a burning swing tempo. His lines, locked into Bill Stewart's cymbals, are reminiscent of Coltrane's breakneck solos. Like Coltrane, Potter toys with superimposed harmonies. He also uses rhythmic displacement, adding a level of excitement due to unease over whether or not he is going to fall back into the phrase. The fact that he always does it is exhilarating.

Reviewer: Jacob Teichroew


Chris Potter: Iowa City

Track

Iowa City

Artist

Chris Potter (tenor sax)

CD

What Now? (CAM5005)

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Musicians:

Chris Potter (tenor sax), Kenny Wheeler (flugelhorn), Dave Holland (bass),

John Taylor (piano)

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Composed by Kenny Wheeler

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Recorded: New York, June 1-2, 2004

Albumcoverdaveholland-chrispotter-johntaylor-kennywheeler-whatnow

Rating: 99/100 (learn more)

There is no drummer on this track, but Potter's solo has a rhythmic drive that renders drums unnecessary. This solo is also absent the sprawling double-time lines that seem ubiquitous in Potter's oeuvre. However, it displays the ease with which Potter uses the entire range of the saxophone, including the altissimo register. The most striking feature of this near-perfect solo is its use of evolving motives, which Potter facilely transposes and inverts. Potter uses these motives to form overarching phrases that express an agitated yearning sentiment, all the while maintaining an intensity that causes the track to crackle with energy.

Reviewer: Jacob Teichroew


Chris Potter: Nudnik

Track

Nudnik

Artist

Chris Potter (tenor sax)

CD

Underground (SSC3034)

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Musicians:

Chris Potter (tenor sax),

Wayne Krantz, Adam Rogers (guitars), Craig Taborn (Fender Rhodes), Nate Smith (drums)

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Composed by Chris Potter

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Recorded: New York, c. 2005

Albumcoverchrispotter-underground

Rating: 88/100 (learn more)

The compositions on Underground are heavily influenced by funk music, and are reminiscent of Dave Holland's quintet, of which Potter was a member. "Nudnik" is a groove-based piece whose mixed-meter phrases give it a lilt and an unexpected quality. The beginnings and ends of phrases are surprising. Potter's raucous improvisation over the changing meters is executed with great precision, and the backdrop provided by Craig Taborn's Rhodes and Wayne Krantz's guitar fluidly glides between the ethereal and the rock-hard.

Reviewer: Jacob Teichroew


Chris Potter: Song for Anyone

Track

Song for Anyone

Artist

Chris Potter (tenor sax)

CD

Song for Anyone (SSC3074)

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Musicians:

Chris Potter (tenor sax),

Erica Von Kleist (flute), Greg Tardy (clarinet), Michael Rabinowitz (bassoon), Mark Feldman (violin), Lois Martin (viola), David Eggar (cello), Steve Cardenas (guitar), Scott Colley (acoustic bass), Adam Cruz (drums, percussion)

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Composed by Chris Potter

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Recorded: New York, c. 2007

Albumcoverchrispotter-songforanyone

Rating: 90/100 (learn more)

A beautiful feature of Potter's compositions on this album is the variety of timbres he achieves by putting various instruments in the chamber ensemble in unison or octaves. "Song for Anyone," the title track, has an extended form that is the most successful at allowing all the colors of the ensemble to shine through. The arrangement is obviously inspired by classical music, and Potter's solo is too in some ways. It is at times pointillistic, and at other times he abandons lines altogether for flourishes and gestures that are reminiscent of Stravinsky's ballets.

Reviewer: Jacob Teichroew


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