REVIEW: Chris Potter Quartet at Unterfahrt in Munich

Chris Potter Quartet
L-R: David Virelles, Chris Potter, Joe Martin, Marcus Gilmore
Photo credit: Ralf Dombrowski

Chris Potter Quartet

(Unterfahrt, Munich. 16th May 2017. Review and photos by Ralf Dombrowski (*))

Drummer Marcus Gilmore, the grandson of hardbop drummer Roy Haynes, belongs to a generation of drummers for whom the crude laying-down of  beat has been consigned to the past, and polyrhythmic independence is the stuff of everyday life. This also means that he likes to play a lot, he creates carpets in sound, stays in control of cascades from the toms, and can simultaneously follow both a pulse and a basic groove with fiery intuition.

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This makes him just the right partner for a saxophonist such as Chris Potter, who is constantly exploring the limits of what is technically achievable on tenor and soprano, without ever losing sight of the shaping of both his sound and a coherent line. Potter may be equipped with a quite insane level of velocity and and an encyclopaedic knowledge of the canon of modern jazz going back to Charlie Parker, yet his music is tied to a rigour in which ecstasy does exist – but always as a means of intensifying expression, and not just being in a daze.

Marcus Gilmore
Photo credit: Ralf Dombrowski

While Gilmore left the listener with the impression that he could not help but maintain the sense of forward propulsion, Potter’s virtuosic flights of fancy were constantly oscillating between the solid and the filigree. Even ballads were a show of skill, if not of technical velocity then of the supple an malleable forming of melodic line and sound. And for that endeavour it was just right to have a pianist like David Virelles on board; in the context of the precise perfection of the Potter world he comes across as a source of strength, genius but also of confusion. As accompanist he is quiet and reserved, as soloist he creates motifs with space to breathe. His methods are not to inject athletic energy but rather to create anarchy of shapes and fragments.

The fourth quartet member bassist Joe Martin has a whole heritage of groove to work on and to make his own, his patterns and structures have the aura of self-sufficiency about them, and yet he fits perfectly into the tendency of his colleagues to create an opulence of shapes.

As a whole this concert was a very fine reflection of what an exploration of the borders of modern jazz can be. To play more impressively, more coherently or better than the Chris Potter Quartet…it really can’t be done. But more movingly?…perhaps it can,

Joe Martin
Photo credit: Ralf Dombrowski

(*) LINKS: Ralf Dombrowski’s original German is published today in the Sueddeutsche Zeitung
CD Review :The Dreamer Is the Dream
Live Review: Chris Potter Trio at the Montreal Jazz Fesstival in 2016

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