Chris Potter Quartet Sings Siren Song at Lakeland

Saxophonist Chris Potter and his quartet fulfilled every promise with their 100-minute set Saturday evening at the Lakeland Jazz Festival. While focusing on tunes from his January release The Sirens (ECM), Potter allowed more air to inhabit the pieces, as when launching “Penelope” and “The Sirens” alone on soprano sax and bass clarinet, respectively, working his way into the haunting melody of each as if raking the melodies together out of all the possibilities offered by sonic space. Many of the tunes fed quietly, organically into those that followed. But in between the demarcation points (however blurry they might be) swam a sea of mood and crescendo.

Even with his reputation for perfectly hewn lines and phrases, Potter’s tightly twined bop solo on Thelonious Monk’s “Four in One” was a wonder to behold. His bass clarinet on “The Sirens” was more forlorn than foreboding, as if sounding a eulogy for those drawn by the Sirens’ call—for all life that must crash inevitably into death. Bassist Larry Grenadier followed this with a dark but highly melodic bowed bass solo that drew out the piece’s Indian undertones and seemed, upon its finish, to suck the room of its air. It was also interesting to hear pianist David Virelles fully attack this music (he plays on Sirens, but Craig Taborn covers the main keyboard duties therein). Virelles employed more dissonant voicings than Taborn, in addition to some Cuban flare, most notably on “Five Points.” Drummer Eric Harland never took a solo during the set, but propelled the motion ever forward and added inventive rhythmic underpinnings, as when knocking a tambourine against the rim of his snare on “Sky.”

It was quite a set, and hopefully I can do it justice in my upcoming full review for All About Jazz. Additional photos are again available on the AAJ site.

Set list:
Wine Dark Sea (Chris Potter)
Wayfinder (Potter)
Penelope (Potter)
Five Points (Potter)
Four in One (Thelonious Monk)
The Sirens (Potter)
Sky (Potter)
Encore: Darn That Dream (Eddie DeLange/James Van Heusen)

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