Imagine that the world had stopped, live music was cancelled, forbidden even, and artists all over the world found themselves struggling to perform in ensemble settings. Sadly, this is the state of the world we currently live in, but what would you do?
Well, renowned jazz saxophonist, composer and, as this album so brilliantly demonstrates, multi-instrumentalist Chris Potter took it upon himself not to simply join forces with other musicians over Zoom, but instead to produce a full 10 track album of original songs himself, at home, in just six weeks. In this awe-inspiring album Potter, who is largely known as a saxophonist, plays every note of every single instrument, which according to the album insert includes tenor and soprano saxophone, clarinet, bass clarinet, flute, alto flute, piano, keyboards, electric guitar, acoustic guitar, bass guitar, drums, and percussion.
When I first sat down to listen, I was not in the least bit surprised at the effortlessly cool saxophone performances throughout, however I was expecting to be somewhat critical of the other instruments, adamant that one human cannot excel at that many instruments at once. Yet here I am, at track 6, ‘Lower your anchor down’ for the second time through and still completely dumfounded by the fact that the relaxed, confident brush playing on the kit, along with the unashamedly grooving bass guitar are not being played by professional session musicians in an expensive recording studio. The broody sax introduction to this track is followed by a catchy riff on piano and guitar, developing into a head/solo/head form where Potter’s natural improvisational talent really shines through, remarkably almost as well on flute as on saxophone.
Once again, I am listening on CD by Edition Records, played on a Primare BD32, into a Ming Da Dynasty Octet, and out through a pair of Opera Grand Mezzas. In this instance, the warmth of the valves both brings out the woody texture of the woodwind and reeds, and keeps the soprano saxophone subtle enough to enjoy without it sounding screechy. The irresistibly funky track 4, ‘Rising over you’ is one of my favourites, with the foot tapping backbeat rhythm section, unusually mellow piano and wandering soprano sax melody. Track one, ‘I had a dream’, is also a contemplative nod to the Black Lives Matter movement that was happening at the time of composition.
In a time where the silver linings of the various lockdowns are the only things keeping us sane, this album shines through as a testament to the determination and willpower of Chris Potter not to let Covid-19 take away what he loves doing most, and sends a message of hope to everyone that not all is bad in the world at the moment.