“Imaginary Cities” is the first release of Chris Potter‘s Underground Orchestra, a new project taking his Undergound Quartet a step further. It starts with a haunting melody by violinists Mark Feldman and Joyce Hammann, viola player Lois Martin, and cellist David Eggar before the tenor saxophone of Potter comes in slowly and erupting in something like a desperate cry. The song is called “Lament”.
The album’s central piece consists of four tracks which make up the “Imaginary Cities” suite: “Compassion” features beautiful and emphatic guitar work by Adam Rogers who is part of Potter’s Quartet and who has also worked with Michael Brecker, Walter Becker, or Norah Jones, in addition to his own albums as a leader (check out his great “Time And The Infinite” from 2007).
Two bassists join Potter for his new ECM album: Fima Ephron and Scott Colley designing the mood for the second part of the suite called “Dualities” which also prominently features vibist and marimba player Steve Nelson who worked with Potter in Dave Holland‘s group. The piece shows that the string section is not really an appendage here, but totally belongs to the band. A great piece with lots of tension and drama.
“Disintegration” starts with Potter’s quartet pianist Craig Taborn and a, pardon me, disintegrated sax from the leader who then goes into a dialogue with the strings, sometimes frenzied, at other times mellow. The longest part of the suite is the last one called “Rebuilding” which begins with the robust drum playing of Nate Smith. So why this topic? In the press release, Potter is quoted as saying: “I had this idea of imaginary cities, a non-specific utopian idea of how the modern city could be better…It started out just being one tune and then I saw how one theme could migrate to another mood and continue it and be another aspect of the same thing. So it ended up being four movements with thematic development through the whole thing.” This major fourth part of the work could stand on its own as a developmental suite.
The more classical part of the work can be heard on “Shadow Self” and Potter saves the best for last: the 12 minute “Sky” is as open and colorful as can be complete with whirlwinds, thunder, Indian monsoon and apparent calm.
Chris Potter is on tour with his quartet playing several European cities between February 13th and March 7th (see also Events).