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Underground

Chris Potter

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Album Review

Chris Potter took his electric band, Underground, on the road throughout 2005, trying out new material and working through some of his gems. This Sunnyside date is the first time this band has been in the studio together. Underground features Potter playing tenor saxophone exclusively, guitarist Wayne Krantz (in a rare sideman role to be sure), Craig Taborn on Fender Rhodes, and drummer Nate Smith. Right, that's not an error: there's no bassist. The program is diverse, featuring six Potter originals and some startling choices for covers: Billy Strayhorn's "Lotus Blossom," Lennon and McCartney's "Yesterday" (which also features Adam Rogers on an additional guitar), and the Radiohead tune "Morning Bell." The obvious question is whether this a "fusion" record. The answer would have to be yes, given the knottiness of the arrangements, the twisting and turning original tunes, and the phrasing between Krantz and Taborn. But then, that's an obvious answer. The less obvious one is that this is fully an electric jazz record with plenty of groove and some swing in the mix, too. Potter is a fine composer and understands the strengths of the bands he writes for. He never leaves notions of hard bop or post-bop out completely — check out the opener for evidence with its knotty head that echoes the Jazz Messengers. "Morning Bell" is beautifully illustrated here. Potter tempts the melody to come out of his horn, and then moves around and through it to bring out something else entirely. Krantz's gently pulsing guitar work and Taborn's painterly touch in the lower register keeps the dynamic static until the tension builds and then releases again. "Lotus Blossom" will piss off some because of its soft, space-age atmospherics at the beginning and Taborn's strange illustrative tinkling around Potter's melody. It feels so nocturnal, but more like Sun Ra haunting the backdrop of the tune. Yes, that's a compliment. Taborn asserts himself more as it plays out, but never removes (entirely) the shimmering angularity from his playing as Smith enters with his cymbals. It's simply a lovely and a truly poetic read. "Big Top" plays with different dynamic and thematic ideas, centered around the dancing pulse of Smith's drumming as the only constant in the track. It drives, dances, whispers, rolls, and shoves its way through its complex ensemble phrases that touch on funk, hard bop, and post-bop, and Potter takes his solo outside into some serious honking and bleating territory. The title track begins as a slow, bluesy nocturnal thing in a time signature somewhere between three signatures. Krantz and Potter play contrapuntal harmonic phrases in the theme and set a groove. Krantz's chord fills and short runs during Potter's solo are choice and keep him tight to the blues. On his own break, however, he plays all around the theme and never through it. He fires his lines tight and hot into the middle and lets Taborn fill in the holes while never missing rhythmically. Taborn is dead funky here — he punches the center with big nasty chords and popping small runs. Underground won't come close to appealing to everyone, but so what? It's a fine Potter outing and studio documentation of a fine band that has actually kept the jazz in fusion and vice versa.

Customer Reviews

Funky & Smart

Saxophonist Chris Potter has built himself an eager audience for his brand of funky jazz by playing with a highly developed rhythmic sense and not being afraid to venture into so-called “jam band” terrain. For the last two years Potter has been refining the sound of his new bass-less quartet, Underground. With semi-frequent “rehearsals” at the 55 Bar in New York, as well as a couple stateside and European tours, Potter’s Underground is a new experiment with Craig Taborn on Fender Rhodes organ, Wayne Krantz or Adam Rogers on guitars, and fellow Dave Holland bandmate Nate Smith on drums. Potter’s new group brings out strikingly diverse timbres including the quietly beautiful electronic tone poem on Billy Strayhorn’s “Lotus Blossom” as well as the poly-rhythmic smokers “Next Best Western,” and “Nudnik.” Exploring new textures while using very simple head arrangements and laying the funk down seem to be what this band is all about.

Underground Masterpiece

Bravo to Chris for bringing this underground jazz scene to our iPods! Chris plays his ass off on the entire album, taking plenty of time to showcase his band along the way (btw, this album's a must have for Wayne Krantz fans). The infectious pocket in 'Next Best Western' and the intensity of 'Big Top' will rock your face off. Chris wears his heart on his sleeve throughout 'Morning Bell' and 'Lotus Blossom'. Grab your best pair of headphones and clear your calendar for the next week, cause you're not going to want to stop this one! ALSO- To you people leaving bad reviews because Chris doesn't sound like he does when he's with Steely Dan and others...Quit being ignorant. This is a "Chris Potter" album, and that means he is playing what's on his heart. This is what he likes, and he's trying to share that with you. If you don't like it or can't appreciate it, don't buy it. There's no need to be rude and tell everyone you don't like this style. I don't really like rap, but I don't go around leaving bad reviews on rap albums...

Groove oriented

Dig this new sound for Chris. It's moving in a different direction much like his "Traveling Mercies" did several years ago. Groove oriented with new players such as drummer Nate Smith (most recently with the Dave Holland Quintet and Big Band) and Wayne Krantz on guitar. It's a cross between jazz improv and groove oriented jams. A little more bottom end with the electirc bass and Nate using a larger bass drum to get that "thump" going rather than typical jazz bass drum "whack" (sounding more like a tom). Only have listened to it once through but I like interaction between Chris and Wayne as the guitar has a harder edge to it than mainstream jazz guitarists. And not a "smooth jazz" cd either.

Biography

Born: January 1, 1971 in Chicago, IL

Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '90s, '00s, '10s

Post-bop saxophonist Chris Potter quietly became one of the more sophisticated and respected stylists of the '90s and early 2000s, both as a leader and as a sideman in several prominent groups. Born in Chicago on New Year's Day 1971, Potter grew up mostly in Columbia, South Carolina, and started playing piano as a child. He took up the alto saxophone at age ten, initially inspired by Paul Desmond and Johnny Hodges, and went on to learn tenor and soprano sax, bass clarinet, and flute as well; by 13,...
Full Bio
Underground, Chris Potter
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  • $9.99
  • Genres: Jazz, Music, Fusion
  • Released: Jan 31, 2006

Customer Ratings

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