The first set of the Underground’s return to Ronnie’s was gritty improvising of the highest order by one of the greatest saxophonists alive in his prime and the band’s the thing.
The flavour was metrically advanced freebop, by times funky and tender often dizzyingly uptempo particularly in the early forays. With Chris Potter, the former Dave Holland, Pat Metheny and Steely Dan sideman, who switched from tenor saxophone to flute on ‘Zea’, were the mighty bluesician Adam Rogers on electric guitar; the big fingered baseball cap wearing London born New Yorker Fima Ephron a Rogers playing partner on his 2017 album Dice on a white bass guitar; and Dan Weiss on drums, his absorbing solo in the latter part of the approximately 60-minute set splashing the cymbals from the heat of the anvil to the spa of lapping wave.
Tunes back-announced by the quietly spoken side hair parted simply dressed Potter – who left the stage to disappear backstage when his three colleagues were getting their thang on simmeringly 20 minutes or so in – two long numbers on and which were ‘Train’ (like ‘Zea’ more about which in a mo from 2007’s Follow the Red Line: Live at the Village Vanguard) and ‘Time’s Arrow’ (from 2009 album Ultrahang) and to keep distracting words to a minimum tidily then forward announced before the extraordinary ‘Zea’ utilising a captured live-recorded just created flute figure that the technology allowed Potter to play over on tenor, and ‘Tweet’ (“l’ll have to rename it,” the Chicago born 47-year-old joked) – the set burnt on the camphor of the night.
Upstairs in Ronnie’s bar as the second set downstairs got under way, Deelee Dubé, (above, centre in the photograph and in a promotional video for her upcoming much anticipated release) sang ‘Sassy’s Blues’ while on double bass “Level” Neville Malcolm behind her, beating like thunder on China Moses’ Nightintales released in 2017, was warm and listening as Alex Hutton on the upright piano locked hands and broke loose to George Shearing’s ‘Lullaby of Birdland’ and the evergreen, wise, ‘Come Rain or Come Shine’, among their standards choices. Stephen Graham
Chris Potter’s Underground continue tonight. Streaming, live.