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Born This Day
Louis Armstrong and Steve Andrews.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

CD Review: Chris Potter Underground Orchestra – Imaginary Cities

Chris Potter (tenor & soprano saxophones, bass clarinet), Adam Rogers (guitar), Craig Taborn (piano), Steve Nelson (vibraphone & marimba), Fima Ephron (bass guitar), Scott Colley (double bass), Nate Smith (drums), Mark Feldman (violin), Joyce Hammann (violin), Lois Martin (viola) & David Eggar (cello)
(Review by Russell).
Chris Potter has augmented his regular quartet – Adam Rogers, Craig Taborn and Nate Smith – with two bassists, a string quartet and former sparring partner Steve Nelson on vibes and marimba to record Imaginary Cities. The CD comprises a four part suite (the title composition) and four other pieces.
Lincoln Center, New York, invited Potter to write new music with a view to performing it at the prestigious venue. Initially, Potter had his working band in mind but in time the project grew to incorporate parts for the other musicians featured on this ECM recording.
Potter’s writing evolved from ‘a non-specific utopian idea of how the modern city could be better.’ The first of eight tracks (Lament) opens with strings, bass guitar and Smith’s languid drum patterns laying the groundwork for Potter’s searching tenor saxophone.
Imaginary Cities is divided into four parts – Compassion, Dualities, Disintegration then Rebuilding. The first part hears more of Potter’s accomplished tenor playing followed by Adam Rogers’ ever-excellent guitar playing. Smith drives Dualities, lifting Potter to ever greater heights, Nelson’s vibes break away from the strings’ secure foundation seeking to emulate the bandleader’s sense of adventure. Craig Taborn plays acoustic piano on the album and sketches a delicate opening to the impressionistic Disintegration ahead of Potter’s floating soprano above a field of decaying strings. Smith’s sparkling drum part revitalises the ensemble’s optimism on the suite’s end piece, Rebuilding.
Firefly burns brightly; Fima Ephron’s lithe bass pattern, urgent tenor, guitar and strings chase the melody, then vibes, Smith again pivotal. Shadow Self  suggests an ‘out’ string quartet piece, politely discordant. The final track, Sky, dazzles briefly (Taborn and once more Smith) and it is down to Potter to conclude matters. Imaginary Cities is released on January 19 on ECM (catalogue no. 470 4075). Chris Potter’s Underground Quartet (on this occasion Potter, Adam Rogers, Fima Ephron and Nate Smith) can be heard at Ronnie Scott’s, London, February 16 and 17.  
Russell.

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