Hear Chris Potter Circuits Trio, Anna Webber Simple Trio, and Vincent Herring in Take Five
Chris Potter Circuits Trio, "Serpentine"
Last month I spent a deeply gratifying hour or so in Central Park with a trio led by saxophonist Chris Potter, thanks to the Giant Step Arts series Walk with the Wind. Among other things, it was a welcome reminder of Potter's supreme command as an improviser, not to mention the salutary effects of the pandemic woodshed. This Friday he'll release an album that marshals all of those dynamic energies: Sunrise Reprise, by his Circuits Trio, with James Francies on keyboards and Eric Harland on drums.
Recorded in the studio last September, it conveys the rush of an opened pressure valve. "It felt such a release, a sense of freedom to create and to express ourselves collectively," Potter says in an album note. At the same time, these are musicians who bring an extraordinary level of control to every part of their exchange.
The tricky funk-fusion tune "Serpentine" is a case in point, not only during Potter's heroic solo but also during a Francies excursion that kicks in shortly after the five-minute mark. The band doesn't present itself as such — but between Harland, last heard on The Q Sessions with Christian McBride, and Francies, who has his own album out next week, Circuits Trio is a majority Houston-expat operation. Pardon the expression, but in such company, it's no surprise that Potter has liftoff.
Sunrise Reprise will be released on Edition Records this Friday; order here.
Vincent Herring, "Minor Swing"
Speaking of saxophonists with an emphatically powerful presence: alto master Vincent Herring has dropped a life-affirming album called Preaching to the Choir, featuring pianist Cyrus Chestnut, bassist Yasushi Nakamura, and drummer Johnathan Blake. Coming on the heels of a challenging year for Herring — he contracted COVID-19 and began suffering rheumatoid arthritis as a result — it's a statement of resolute positivity and a doubling-down of core principles, including the will to swing.
In fact, "Swing" is right there in the title of a new piece that Chestnut brought to the session. (Here is footage of him playing the song with his band Affirmation at Keystone Korner Baltimore last fall.) Riding an ostinato whose offbeat bounce recalls Ahmad Jamal's "Poinciana," it shifts into a walking 4/4 well into Herring's solo — a moment worth savoring, as is the entirety of Chestnut's contribution. This is a band that makes the classic feel contemporary, without giving the matter a second thought.
Preaching to the Choir is available now on Smoke Sessions Records.
Anna Webber Simple Trio, "Forgotten Best"
Last year, saxophonist-composer Anna Webber went maximalist with an album by the Webber/Morris Big Band. (We premiered a track in Take Five.) She also played one of the very few live performances I was fortunate enough to attend, leading her septet at Roulette as part of Jazzfest Berlin. What binds all of her work is an exquisite attunement to complex form, and the fearless conviction to plunge down any improv rabbit hole.
Webber's forthcoming double album, Idiom, extends the concepts she introduced on her 2019 release Clockwise — but rather than a septet, she works here with two bands of smaller and larger scale. Disc 2 involves a 12-piece ensemble with a conductor, while Disc 1 features the longstanding group Webber calls her Simple Trio, with Matt Mitchell on piano and John Hollenbeck on drums. This is the most pared-down presentation of her music, though "simple" isn't the first word that comes to mind. Consider "Forgotten Best," which unfolds like a pocket epic. (Don't miss the brief false ending at 4:16, and the way it leads into a new idea.) Thrillingly, there's more where this came from.
Idiom will be released on Pi Recordings on May 28; preorder here.
Graham Haynes vs. Submerged, "Flashtower"
Burning Ambulance, the blog-turned-podcast run by critic Phil Freeman, recently added another facet to its content stream — as an independent record label, putting out music both digitally and on CD. The latest Burning Ambulance release is a meeting of the minds between Graham Haynes, the cornetist, composer and electronics artist, and Submerged, the experimental DJ and producer also known as Kurt Glück-Aeg.
"Flashtower" is the A side of a double single, and hopefully the first in a series of further collaborations. Drum-n-bass is a point of stylistic overlap for Submerged and Haynes, and they find a way to evoke the style without succumbing to 1990s nostalgia. You can locate certain sonic affinities in the track — with late-period Miles Davis, naturally, or the subsequent work of trumpeters Toshinori Kondo and Nils Petter Molvær — but this is a creative convergence with its own point of view.
Flashtower/Istanbul Gran Prix is available now at Burning Ambulance.
John Patitucci, "Letter For Paul"
We opened this edition of Take Five with Chris Potter in a funk zone, and so it also closes. But there's a different context around "Letter For Paul," which John Patitucci recorded after the death of his fellow bassist Paul Jackson, as a heartfelt tribute. "He was able to mix a loose and flexible jazz approach with an unbelievably funky feel," Patitucci says of Jackson, whose sound he discovered as a teenager. "His bass lines were SO soulful, rhythmically ultra-creative and powerful."
"Letter For Paul" came out of a session that Patitucci was recording for the Le Coq label — several weeks before Jackson's passing. Effectively a studio jam, it later struck him as an appropriate offering, and you'd be hard-pressed to disagree. Along with Potter, who sounds downright turbocharged, the track features Jon Cowherd on Fender Rhodes, Rogério Boccato on percussion and Marcus Gilmore on drums. It's a loping creation that recalls Jackson's ability to set a mood as well as a groove.