A part of the jazz tradition is the live recording, and Manhattan’s fabled Village Vanguard is the brook of fire through which every improviser must pass. That said, Follow the Red Line / Live at the Village Vanguard shows that Potter has come through the burning sands of that venue s bandstand in flying colors. Backed by an intriguing, piano-less quartet composed of Detroit’s Craig Taborn on Fender Rhodes electric piano, drummer Nate Smith, and guitarist Adam Rogers, Potter prances and dances on six extended-length excursions. Train leads off the set with some serious Staz-on-steroids swing, followed by the subcontinental syncopations of Arjuna, named for the Indian prince in the Indian literary classic, the Mahabharata. Pop Tune #1 is laced with some up-south downbeats in three, graced by Smith’s tangy solo, while Viva Las Vilnius dances with Carib-cadences, contrasted by the hymnal hues of Zea. The disc closes on the powerful, Afrobeat anthemed Togo a propulsive ode to the delightful West African nation that Duke Ellington saluted in one of his last major suites. Here, Potter’s in-the-pocket bass clarinet solo and accompaniment is an Africanized summation of that instrument s major voices from Eric Dolphy to Bennie Maupin, equaled only by Taborn’s impossible keyboard solo.
Chris Potter s synthesis of the saxophone, flute and bass clarinet masters, and his ability to mold them into his own sound started with his first instrument, the piano, when he grew up in Columbia, South Carolina. He moved there after he was born in Chicago on New Years Day, 1971. He later switched to saxophone after he heard alto sax legends Paul Desmond, and Johnny Hodges. He was a professional by the time he was fourteen, and four years later, he moved to New York, enrolled at the Manhattan School of Music, and joined bop trumpeter Red Rodney’s quintet until 1994. He also worked with Jazz Mentality and guitarist John Hart. His other prominent gigs as a sideman include work with Marian McPartland on her 1993 CD, In My Life, and with Renee Rosnes, Paul Motian, Dave Holland, John Patitucci, Dave Douglas, Steve Swallow, and Kenny Werner. He also toured with Steely Dan and recorded on their 2000 recording, Two Against Nature.
Potter’s first CD as a leader, Presenting Chris Potter was released on the Criss Cross label in 1992. His other recordings of note include Concentric Circles (Concord Jazz, 1993), Vertigo (Concord Jazz, 1998), Gratitude (Verve 2001), Traveling Mercies (Verve, 2002), and his first two sides for Sunnyside, Lift : Live at the Village Vanguard (2004), and Underground (2006). The reedman s gifts have also been noted by the critics, as evidenced by his winning of Denmark’s esteemed Jazzpar Prize in 2000 the youngest to ever win the award.