Chris Potter's Underground | Jazz Showcase | Jazz | Chicago Reader
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Chris Potter's Underground 

When: Thu., Jan. 22, 8 & 10 p.m., Fri., Jan. 23, 8 & 10 p.m., Sat., Jan. 24, 8 & 10 p.m. and Sun., Jan. 25, 4, 8 & 10 p.m. 2015
Price: $25-$30
A couple years ago saxophonist Chris Potter, arguably the successor of Michael Brecker as the most influential reedist of his generation, released The Sirens, one of the most original albums of his two-and-a-half-decade career. On that record he moves away from the groove-based electric sound of his band Underground in favor of a far more stylistically elusive acoustic approach, taking inspiration from Homer’s Odyssey and threading his muscular improvisations through the contrasting contributions of the group’s two pianists—Cuban keyboardist David Virelles sticks mostly to prepared piano and harmonium, while Craig Taborn plays deft, forceful grand piano. Potter continues to experiment with form and setting on the brand-new Imaginary Cities (ECM), a densely orchestrated effort that uses a string quartet, tuned percussion, and a pair of bassists. This isn’t clunky third-stream stuff, where elements of jazz and classical music jostle uneasily; the additional voices play roles just as integral to the compositions as Taborn’s piano, Adam Rogers’s electric guitar, and Potter’s plush horn (though the three of them fill the overwhelming majority of the solo space). The centerpiece of the album is the four-part suite from which it takes its title, where shifting tones and moods provide plenty of improvisational grist (but don’t often succeed in evoking any imaginary cities). Despite the ambitious, careful writing and passionate blowing, though, too much of the suite relies on the full 11-piece ensemble playing at middling tempos—which makes the first half of the final movement, when only guitar and strings surround Potter’s soprano, stand out. For this week’s engagement the saxophonist brings a compact version of the band: guitarist Rogers, electric bassist Fima Ephron, and drummer Nate Smith. —Peter Margasak



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