CHRIS POTTER, Got the Keys to the Kingdom: Live at the Village Vanguard Review
by Nolan DeBuke
World-renowned saxophonist Chris Potter is releasing a live recording of his performance at the Village Vanguard in February of 2022. Got the Keys to the Kingdom is Potter’s second album with Edition Records and features an all-star band comprising Craig Taborn on piano, Scott Colley on bass, and Marcus Gilmore on drums. The set list is all covers, often simple, joyous spiritual songs and folk tunes (Nozani Na, Olha Maria), powerful spirituals (Got the Keys to the Kingdom), and uncommon jazz standards (Blood Count, Klactoveedsedstene) make the final cut from the multi-night residency. In addition, the music provides space for the ensemble to explore melodies that may not be so familiar to jazz fans; as Potter says, “these are tunes people don’t usually play.”
Mississippi Fed McDowell’s “You Gotta Move” opens the project. Potter’s solo introduction has all the elements that have put Potter at the top of the list of modern-day saxophonists. His limitless creativity, effortless virtuosity, and vibrant sense of time are undeniable. Hearing Potter in a live setting brings an added energy and spontaneity that can be heard and felt. Potter’s solo finds the bandleader-composer-arranger exploring expanded chords and rhythmic motifs in a manner that builds to astonishing developments and climaxes.
“Klactoveedsestene” is the ensemble showing that bebop can be an ideal vehicle for exploring modern jazz while still maintaining the language of that era. Taborn choses to tacet for most of Potter’s solo, this gives us an up-close listen to Potter’s harmonic language in a chordless setting. His harmonic movement in, around, and through the standard progression is stunning. Furthermore, his rhythmic creativity is just as superb as his melodic ideas.
Got the Keys to the Kingdom captures today’s top saxophonist in a live setting doing what he does best, exploring the jazz language with power, creativity, and musicality. The six songs are a must-have for any jazz fan; being knowledgeable about Potter’s music exploration is the core of today’s jazz sound. Also, Potter appears on Alex Sipiagin’s latest album, Mel’s Vision; both are must-haves!