The Beautiful Sound of Chris Potter

Last month, I was rear-ended while stopped at a red light. My car was declared totaled and I’m still recovering from the incident. Unfortunately, it happened the same night that tenor saxophone player Chris Potter and his group performed at the Blue Whale in Little Tokyo. I had been planning to go but, as luck would have it, I just couldn’t muster the energy to go downtown after it all. Never mind the fact that I no longer had a car to get there.

Fortunately, some other local friends got to catch the Blue Whale show. My good friend, neighbor and fellow melomane Joey Cevetello later saw the Chris Potter Quartet at the Village Vanguard in Manhattan. He said it was one of the best shows he had ever seen.

Potter has fronted his super group now for a number of years. The ensemble is tight as a drum, communicating via sonic radar ears and musical telepathy. Cuban pianist David Vireilles holds his own against Potter, working in the occasional African instrument to give their sound a new and unexpected flourish. Joe Martin is an amazing bass player in his own right, while drummer Marcus Gilmore propels the group ever-forward with his rhythmic poetry. As for Potter, you can hear the influence of Steve Lacy in his soprano playing; John Coltrane and Wayne Shorter in his tenor style. Eric Dolphy rings through during the bass clarinet solos.

The new album, The Dreamer is the Dream, takes listeners beyond what most people consider to be jazz. In some ways it’s like what impressionist painting or modern art is to 19th century realistic art, and now, like way back then, many won’t appreciate the new approach and style.  The new sound is not your traditional 4/4 form, where the rhythm section simply backs the soloist or leader. Instead, Gilmore, Vireilles, and Martin each go their own way within the overall structure, while still supporting Potter. It’s a far more abstract sound than, say,  Brubeck’s Take Five.

The Dreamer is the Dream is a work of genius. It’s more musical poetry than jazz. No matter how many times I listen to this album, it sings new beauties every time.

Listen to this clip from the Chris Potter Quartet.

All photos by Caterina di Perri / ECM Records