Chris Potter - Underground

Sunny Side

Release date: January 2006

Underground Cover

Chris Potter’s move outside of the bop mainstream is not as funkadelic as that of John Scofield nor as Zawinul-like as Joshua Redman yet a move away it certainly is. Perhaps the signposts were there with “Travelling Mercies” where late ‘sixties / early ‘seventies sounding sound samples were productively used to suggest space and colour. This is that development taken to its logical conclusion. Linking up with the excellent Adam Rogers on two tracks and with the under-rated Wayne Krantz on the others on guitars, Chris Potter assembles a band with a sound palette and approach that would not have been out of place in the early ‘seventies music of Miles Davis. The role of bass is taken up by Craig Taborn playing Fender Rhodes and the personnel is completed by Nate Smith on drums. The result is interesting, different and may place Chris Potter in the position that John Scofield has arrived at where he can in future produce “classic jazz” (mainstream or post bop to you or me) albums and performances as a conscious alternative to the newer stuff (quiet acoustic jazz or MMW funk jazz in the case of John Scofield). The overall feel of Chris Potter’s new music then, is not one of funk or groove jazz, much more the kind of spacey psychedelic jazz of ‘seventies Miles Davis or Chick Corea. Just as Miles Davis took on modern pop songs at that time as suitable vehicles for jazz improvisation (“Time After Time”, “Human Nature”), so Chris Potter follows Brad Mehldau in taking on Lennon and McCartney (“Yesterday”) and Radiohead (“Morning Bell”). The results in both cases are surprisingly good, producing the strongest tracks on the album with "Mornng Bell" a clear stand out. Overall a remarkable departure, reflective perhaps of the changes that jazz is going through.

Part of the successful change of focus is derived from the strong, more rock influenced yet still subtle and polyphonic drumming of Nate Smith. This gives the music a distinctive vibe (as in 70s Miles Davis, it does not swing, it rocks), an edge that is picked up especialy well by Wayne Krantz whose guitar work on "Next Best Western" recalls early 'seventies John McGlaughlin on "Big Fun" yet elsewhere is subtle and sinewy. Craig Tabor's Fender Rhodes does the electric piano thing that Keith Jarret did so effectivley with Miles as well as contriving running bass lines that would not be available to a more traditonal line up involving acoustic or electric bass.

With a live "Underground" tour planned in the coming months, this must be a band to see.

Highly recommended.

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