CHRIS POTTER — Circuits (review)

CHRIS POTTER — Circuits album cover Album · 2019 · Fusion Buy this album from MMA partners
5/5 ·
Steve Wyzard
AWESTRUCK - SO MUCH MUSIC!

Don't let the word "much" throw you. This is not a long, meandering album. Rather it's an unparalleled exercise in how much music four gifted musicians can pack into a visceral 61:35. A huge departure from his relatively restrained work on ECM, not only is Circuits Chris Potter's best album yet, but it's also a strong contender for one of the best of the last decade.

This 21st century fusion masterpiece open with a brief "Invocation", a multi-tracked chorale with layers of saxes and clarinets. The temperature rises with the massive thrust of "Hold it", where James Francies's keyboards remind one of the mid-1970s performances of Hancock/Zawinul/Duke. "The Nerve" is this album's "Eastern"-flavored number, beginning with a loop-pedal of multi-tracked flutes before settling into a groove. "Koutome" features a bass clarinet intro and the bubbling/bustling drums and percussion of Eric Harland before a segue into the chaotic "Circuits". More tape-loops, a mind-bending synth solo, and sax lines of Monkian-complexity almost beg for transcription: I dare you!

The non-pastoral "Green Pastures" is probably this album's most accessible composition. After a synth bass/bass clarinet opening, the Michael Brecker comparison Potter is often saddled with applies here. "Queens of Brooklyn" provides a brief respite from the intensity, with mellow soprano sax over piano chords, before dissolving into a brooding sax/clarinet chorus backed by guitar (played by Potter). Then strap yourself in for the ridiculously speedy tempi of "Exclamation" and the rhythmic, keyboard-heavy "Pressed for Time". Potter and Harland seemingly never stop soloing, while Francies contributes a Fender Rhodes showpiece. Then sit back and wipe your brow when it's all over. Let it also be said that Linley Marthe contributes phenomenal electric bass to "The Nerve", "Koutome", "Circuits", and "Exclamation".

I'm not sure if Potter painstakingly writes out all his lines/arrangements beforehand, but whether or not he does, it's obvious a lot of time, work and thought went into this recording. Circuits (appearing on the Edition label) is one of those albums you can listen to for the rest of your life and still not hear everything. Some will say, "there's too much going on" or "this is just showing off", as this is a far more extroverted album than much of Potter's previous work. Yet Potter and Harland remain leaders in the jazz field on their respective instruments, while both Francies and Marthe are names to be reckoned with based on this album. Until hearing Circuits, I might have proclaimed Dave Holland's Prism album (2013, also featuring Eric Harland) to be the clearest candidate for Jazz Album of the 2010's Decade. Now, I'm not so sure.
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Tracy M wrote:
3 months ago
It's The Album of The Year to Me and The Live Performance with Craig Taborn on Piano, Justin Brown on Drums, and Tim Lefebvre on Bass OMG!
lunarston wrote:
3 months ago
Yes ... This is a really good album!

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