Review by Brad Walseth
With Song For Anyone, Chris Potter continues his ascent as one of the Jazz world's great young talents. Potter released a fiery live album this year with his "Underground" group (see our review here), but on this simultaneous release, the saxophonist places himself in the midst of an unusual context of guitar, bass and drums with violin, viola, cello, bassoon, clarinet and flute. Sax with strings isn't done often or well, with Getz's Focus being one of the few that work, but "Song" reaches for the stars and makes it due to the strengths of Potter's compositions and the sensitive playing by everyone involved.
When people think of strings, they probably think this is something right out of Percy Faith or the 101 Strings, but au contraire. These string arrangements, while smooth are hardly syrupy and display a nice toughness. "The Absence" sets the tone with flute and strings more bittersweet than sweet and Potter providing a thorny solo. "Against the Wind" follows and again avoids maudlin treacle in favor of mature and intriguingly complex shifts. Yes, the strings and guitarist Steve Cardenas' nylon string guitar are "pretty" at times, but there is nothing here to make anyone want to jump out of an elevator.
"Closer to the Sun" opens in an almost traditional string quartet setting with music more akin to Schoenberg in its tonality than one would expect from a Jazz artist. Potter plays an almost sitar-like solo over a drone in the middle before the music returns to the strings - unusual and quite lovely. Meanwhile "Family Tree" is the moody mid-tempo sort of piece you might hear from fellow New Yorker David Binney, with Scott Colley's rumbling bass line and a fascinating solo from bassoonist Michael Rabinowitz complemented by interlocking strings.
Potter plays some burning lines in a duet with Colley on the middle section of the shape-shifting "Chief Seattle." This agreeable piece moves from funk through various mutations and includes a delirious violin solo by Mark Feldman. "Cupid and Psyche" could almost be a ballad, but deconstructs the format, while the title track revels in its "Third Stream" dreams with nice solo work by clarinetist Greg Tardy. The rest of the album continues this trend of lovely interludes, strange metamorphoses and occasional mind-bending solos from the chief himself, with "Estrellas Del Sur" a highlight. Fans of Potter will want this as a must, others may prefer the live setting of the Red Line release, in any case this is an original and satisfying release from an artist/composer growing with every release.