…A musical style that effortlessly improvises across the changes and the phrases but also gives footholds for the soloists to return to and the band to climb from.
Edition Records: EDN 1214
Chris Potter: tenor saxophone; Craig Taborn: piano; Scott Colley: bass; Marcus Gilmore: drums
Recorded February 2022 by Tyler McDiarmid and Geoff Countryman at the Village Vanguard
Collected from a multi-night residency at New York’s Village Vanguard last year, this album presents Potter in the company of some of the city’s finest musicians and in front of a discerning but hugely enthusiastic audience.
The set consists of covers, which you might expect to provide a common language for players and their audience.
But in the best Potter tradition, this is a mix of left-of-field pieces that range from folk (‘Nozani na’, track 2) or traditional spirituals (‘Got the keys to the kingdom’, track 6), to Jobim’s ‘Olha Maria’, track 5, Strayhorn’s ‘Blood count’, track 3, or Parker’s ‘Klactoveedsedstene’, track 4.
As he says in the press release ‘these are tunes that people don’t usually play.’ So, a pretty tall order to work up to a set with a relatively new quartet (different from the trio that he’s toured and recorded with over the past few years – although, of course, his work with Taborn includes 2006’s great ‘Underground’ album and 2013’s ‘The Sirens’).
The opening track, ‘You gotta move’ (penned by Mississippi Fred McDowell) sets the tone of the set. It is rambunctious blues with a tight groove that the quartet dig into and swing like crazy. Each solo over the 14 or so glorious minutes sparkles with wit and passion.
Taborn and Potter challenge each other in a relay of solos, each passing the baton and urging greater efforts from the other. The result, even after the track reaches a fitting climax, captured the joy of a live gig, the history of the venue, and the total dedication of the four players to the moment.
Like the opening track, the other pieces work a distinctive rhythmic pattern and take a handful of phrases for the soloists to mix and bend to their wills.
This results in a musical style that effortlessly improvises across the changes and the phrases but also gives footholds for the soloists to return to and the band to climb from. Taborn’s and Potter’s solos showcase their distinctive musical styles and quick-fire improvisatory skills.
But the solos also have a timeless quality, as if echoes of past players from the Village Vanguard occasionally seep into the tonality or phrasing.
Reviewed by Chris Baber