Chris Potter Underground

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Posted July 29, 2009 by Ken Shimamoto in Music

South Carolina-born tenor saxophonist Chris Potter emerged in the early ’90s, apprenticed under Charlie Parker’s trumpeter Red Rodney, gained visibility as a sideman with the reunited Steely Dan (he appeared on their album Two Against Nature), and performed in the forward-looking groups of bassist Dave Holland and trumpeter Dave Douglas. Potter’s current quartet, Underground, which features guitar, electric piano, and drums — look Ma, no bass! — has been together since 2006.

luppotter7-29After stints on Verve and Concord Jazz, Potter is releasing his latest album, Ultrahang, via ArtistShare, a hybrid record label-social networking site that allows fans to fund favorite artists’ projects. In return, fans are able to participate in the works’ progress via online updates and video feeds in the recording studios. In one case, a fan got to attend the Grammy Awards with an award-winning artist.

The title track, which opens the album, is propelled by a taut funk-rock groove that in its odd-metered angularity recalls ’70s prog-rockers King Crimson. Unfolding slowly is “Facing East,” a majestic modal theme that features Adam Rogers’ guitar in counterpoint to Potter’s tenor over shimmering chords from pianist Craig Taborn’s Fender Rhodes. All the while, drummer Nate Smith deftly subdivides the beat. The guitarist plays a pungent, blues-inflected solo before the leader plays an exploratory one on bass clarinet.

Rogers penned one of the album’s best numbers, the funky “Rumples.” On that tune and Potter’s “Boots,” Taborn’s left hand plays rumbling, tuba-like bass ostinatos that wouldn’t sound out of place on an early-’70s James Brown side. The tortuous melodic twists and turns of “Small Wonder” are reminiscent of Frank Zappa at his most classically influenced. The band takes things “out” for the closing “Interstellar Signals,” an abstract tone poem that brings the album to a satisfying conclusion. Cop via www.artistshare.com.


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