Lift: Live at the Village Vanguard Import
Tenor saxophonist Chris Potter has been recording as a leader for a dozen years, after a rather audacious start in Red Rodney's band at the age of 20. A melodic player given to deliriously swooping runs in his improvisations--Sonny Rollins is a notable influence--Potter and his quartet stretch out on originals and three covers. From the gorgeous "Okinawa" to the relentless closer, Charles Mingus's "Boogie Stop Shuffle," the four musicians form a perfectly matched combo, playing off each other with evident glee. The live setting has energized them and given them an opportunity to fully explore these compositions, as on Potter's solo intro to the Mingus tune. What's astounding about it is that, at nearly 15 minutes, it never falls into a rut as he finds ever more layers to peer under and pull apart. --David Greenberger
The other cats are generally excellent, though my one complaint (and it's minor) is that the pianist occasionally plays this almost atonal distorted electric piano sound that's annoying and not really musical; mostly, though, he plays acoustic piano (or occasionally electric piano without the weird sound effects) and is quite good. The drums and bass don't sound like Elvin Jones and Jimmy Garrison, but they are approaching them in terms of their energy and talent and positive contribution to the joyful experience of listening to this CD.
I really enjoyed Traveling Mercies and was expecting to hear some of the tunes from that CD. The sampling or electronic elements on Megalopolis from that record seemed adventurous. This was not to happen as Chris Potter started off the evening by stating the previous music was "stale" and he would be playing only new tunes.
While not what I had expected I was not disappointed. The music that night was different - less restrained more intense. The sound quality on the CD is great for a live recording....but to be expected given the venue. The band was tight and enthusiastic. Their hearts were in it.
Potter has amassed a solid body of work. I am looking foward to seeing Chris"s new quartet in three weeks time to see how things have evolved now that he has changed the musicians and added a guitarist.
He then says "Sorry, but good Jazz is loaded with improvisations, and written music is but an out line". This line is particularly aggravating. How does he not realize that except for the heads of the tunes, all of the albulm is improvised. More than hour of improvised music, none of which he managed to hear.
What angers me the most however is what he says last. "Take note Smooth Jazz. You are just a tiny bit above elevator music." Now, normally, i woould agree, i cant stand smooth jazz. But (please note this) THIS IS NOT SMOOTH JAZZ! i do not understand how this albulm could possibly be misconstrued as smooth jazz. I think that just his assertion that it is smooth jazz suggests that "book and music lover" clearly has no idea what hes talking about.
This is more closely a fine work of hard bop, perhaps best in line with the later live Coltrane work (think, say, 1964). It is of course very distinctive, but it is easy to hear the strains of coltrane in Potter's solos. The pianist (Kevin Hays) reminds me particularly, when he's playing piano proper and not the synth, of McCoy Tyner, one of the other central pillars of the Classic Coltrane quartet. I can similar things about the bassist and drummer (Scott Colley and Bill stewart, respectively) but im sure you understand my point by now.
"Lift" is a solid piece of modern Jazz, particularly since so many so called jazz musicians have turned to lesser things. For any true jazz fan, this is a must have. Chris Potter himself is certainly one of, if not right next to Coltrane, one of the best tenor players of now, or any time, and there is no better way to showcase his talent then in this brilliant live performance.
If more jazz records had the intensity and beauty of this date, it'd be a golden age for the music no doubt. The album is simply smokin'. Chris' channelling of Sonny Rollins' style of improvisation with his own unique voice, he creates an excitment and level of energy that few are able to muster.
While the tunes have structure, much of the music is played free throughout - but quite melodically. Kevin Hays' weird creations on the Rhodes and Bill Stewart's always killing drumming are definitely highlights. Scott Colley anchors the whole affair with great command. (Plus, in person, Scott looks like a cross between Governor Ventura and Sgt. Slaughter. Gotta give him props on that.)
Simply put, this record is worth your money and then some.