Review by Brad Walseth
Chris Potter is building a reputation as one of the pre-eminent tenor sax players of the current generation. Years of playing in the hot jazz scene in New York with the young up and coming jazz musicians based there like David Binney, Craig Taborn, Miguel Zenon, Scott Colley, and touring with Steely Dan, working with Paul Motian and especially his membership in the Dave Holland Quintet have allowed for the saxophonist's growth both as an artist and player. This year, Potter released two recording simultaneously: "Song For Anyone" features Potter with a 10-piece ensemble, while "Follow the Red Line" is a live set at the legendary Village Vanguard.
Potter previously released a live Village Vanguard recording in 2004, but the new release shows how much the young man has continued to develop his own style. "Red Line" features a pianoless (and bass-less) trio backing Potter, with the ascendent Taborn on electric piano, Adam Rogers on fusion electric guitar and Nate Smith filling the drum chair. Of the six pieces, only one is less than 12 minutes long, so there is plenty of room for all of the participants to stretch out and solo. This could be tedious in lesser hands, but Potter has been well-prepared by his mentor Holland, and knows that the melodic structure has to be in place first. All these compositions balance the need for interesting song writing with incendiary solo turns.
The album starts off with "Train" and the listener knows they are in for a treat with both Potter and Rogers shredding over a swinging post bop arrangement. Despite the deluge of notes produced by the saxman, none seem to be wasted. The single chord funky groove "Arjuna" gives Smith a chance to shine, while Taborn's Fender Rhodes forays remind one of up-tempo "Pangaea" era Miles. "Pop Tune#1" follows and starts off pretty conventionally, but wins you over with the great playing. Roger's bluesy solo sings on this number.
"Viva Las Vilnius" is a delightful blend of Caribbean-rhythms, angular unison lines, rapid-modulations and tempo shifts with Potter's Coltrane-inspired sheets of sound building to a shimmering peak. Ensuring no one is left on comfortable ground, the band then produces the lovely, quiet "Zea" with Taborn's beautiful opening solo and Potter's sensitive and gorgeous lines on bass clarinet. This instrument adds a haunting sound to the band's closer "Togo," which will transport the listener to the West African nation. All band members rock out on this piece with Taborn again showing why he is so in demand, before Potter switches back to tenor to add one last sparkling solo to leave the listener in a euphoric state from this satisfying set. Sheer Jazz heaven!!!