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Take Five: Chris Potter, Louis Hayes, David Murray, Bryan & the Aardvarks, Jaimie Branch

This week in Take Five: two boss tenors, in tracks both old and new. A free-thinking trumpeter with her dynamic debut. A veteran hard-bop drummer revisiting the music that helped make his name. And a track from a hyper-literate band that blends many styles into a seamless fabric. 

Chris Potter, “Sonic Anomaly”

Chris Potter enjoys towering stature as a tenor and soprano saxophonist, and has an impressive if less heralded mastery of bass clarinet and flute. He has also become an incisive bandleader, notably with a quartet featuring David Virelles on piano, Joe Martin on bass and Marcus Gilmore on drums. 

This group’s excellent new release, The Dreamer is the Dream, consists of half a dozen new compositions, most of them billowing out to expansive proportions. But the album concludes with a concise track called “Sonic Anomaly,” which rides a lissome Afrobeat groove. Listen for a coolly rumbling solo by Virelles, after which Potter enters with a row of altissimo squawks. The ensuing tenor solo, brief but commanding, gathers the energy of the group around it.

Louis Hayes with Gregory Porter, “Song For My Father”

Credit Janette Beckman
Louis Hayes

Few people on the planet are better suited to toast Horace Silver than his former drummer Louis Hayes. Serenade for Horace, due out on Blue Note on May 26, is a tribute long in the making, and Hayes has done his part to ensure it does justice to its namesake.

The album was partly produced by bassist Dezron Douglas, who anchors a band that also includes tenor saxophonist Abraham Burton and vibraphonist Steve Nelson. On piano is David Bryant, who knows how to evoke Silver’s percussive touch. This is the lead single, a soulful version of “Song For My Father” with vocals by Gregory Porter, who takes the title and premise of the tune and runs with it.

Bryan and the Aardvarks

Bryan Copeland, a bassist and composer originally from Texas Hill Country, makes music that searches inward even as it scans the horizon. Sounds From the Deep Field is the second album by his band, Bryan and the Aardvarks, and it expresses a sonic and emotional hyper-fluency, along with an animating concept: Copeland was inspired by the idea of deep space, and the discoveries made possible by the Hubble Telescope just over 20 years ago. “To Gaze Out the Cupola Module,” the closing track, evokes the moment when an astronaut beholds the earth from the large windows of the International Space Station. While its melody has a reflective sheen, the tune is marked by brisk energies — as much a function of Chris Dingman’s vibraphone playing and Fabian Almazan’s keyboard work as it is a matter of Joe Nero’s kinetic breakbeat.

Jaimie Branch, “Theme 002”

Jaimie Branch is a trumpeter with a wide-open sound palette, working in a progressive jazz lineage that includes Don Cherry, Booker Little and Lester Bowie. She made her name on the Chicago scene, but now calls Brooklyn home — and has finally released her debut album, Fly or Die, on the International Anthem label. “Theme 002” is one of the album’s more upbeat tracks, a groove tune built on the foundation laid by drummer Chad Taylor, cellist Tomeka Reid and bassist Jason Ajemian. Branch covers a lot of ground on the horn, from a burbling wah-wah to a clarion cry. Catch her at Nublu in the East Village on Wednesday, or at St. Andrew’s Church in Beacon on Thursday, before dates in Canada and the Midwest.

David Murray, “Class Struggle in Music I”

The sit-up-and-take-notice club gig in New York this week is David Murray and Class Struggle at the Village Vanguard, Tuesday through Sunday. Murray, a tenor saxophonist of righteous bluster and fearless fire, named this band after “Class Struggle in Music I,” a poem by the late Amiri Baraka. They performed it  with drummer Steve McCall on New Music – New Poetry, released on the India Navigation label in 1982. (Murray discusses this and other matters in a recent interview with Paul Devlin, on the blog Do the Math.)


“In black music there’s class struggle between those who want to make Afro-American music an appendage of European concert music on the one hand,” Baraka explains in his preface to the poem, “and those who understand that the music is really the expression of the great majority of Afro-American working people.” Then Murray and McCall lurch into a roadhouse shuffle, laying a rhythm and a texture for Baraka’s verse. “What is the emotion?” he asks rhetorically, as a refrain, and Murray’s husky, quavering tone delivers one compelling answer.

A veteran jazz critic and award-winning author, and a regular contributor to NPR Music.