Chris Potter is way up there at the top of today’s pantheon of saxophonists. His new ECM cd, The Sirens, has everything a motivated jazz fan would love. Interesting composing, virtuosic playing, a golden sound, a superb band, respect for the jazz elders preceding him.
On the new cd, he is joined by a great piano player, Craig Taborn, as well as Cuban pianist David Virelles, who injects John Cagean and prepared piano bits, celeste, and harmonium into the mix. Sometimes a bit of Conlon Noncarrow, the player piano composer. Add bassist Larry Grenadier and drummer Eric Harland, and you have a jazz lover’s dream band. It is truly music of radiance and beauty.
You can detect the jazz history: On the title cut, “The Sirens” you hear the relentless explorations that echo Coltrane and Eric Dolphy. On “Kalypso”, you hear the tropical groove Sonny Rollins and his famous “St. Thomas”. On “Penelope” there are some low-down blues shouts. Ornette Coleman is in there too. And the song “Wayfinder” shows us how good a composer Potter is. One thing I like is that no two tracks sound alike, with him going from tenor to soprano to bass clarinet. Also the interesting interplay between the two pianists using different keyboards and instruments.
Add to this the state-of-the-art recorded sound and production typical of Manfred Eicher and ECM. I have listened to this album repeatedly and never tire of its wonders. It’s not cocktail hour stuff, but rather for music lovers who like being challenged. They will be amply rewarded.