The always-in-demand American saxophonist Chris Potter was never likely to sit quietly through lockdown. His first response was to home-record his multi-instrumental skills and layer them into the sonics of a contemporary fusion band — the resulting album, There is a Tide, was released last year.
But when New York’s lockdown restrictions briefly eased last September, he reconvened his once busily touring Circuits Trio and recorded Sunrise Reprise. The fusion aesthetic remained, but now the skitter and thump drums are delivered by Eric Harland and James Francies provides multiple keyboard sounds. And lacking a dedicated bass player, bass samples and synth beef up the music’s bottom end with punchy low note riffs, across-the-pulse smears and awkwardly placed unison lines.
The recording session was the first time any of the trio had played with another musician in months, and they revel in the band’s collective energy, bouncing ideas off each other with relish. Tricky twist-and-turn themes launch high-octane grooves or suddenly appear mid-track, and thunderous climaxes explode into layered mists of keyboard and doctored sax.
The album starts with swirls of synth and Potter restrained, but by the middle of “Sunrise and Joshua Trees” the mood is menacing and tense. The ebb and flow of “Southbound” comes next, followed by the onrush of “Serpentine”, which delivers a wickedly tangled theme and pushes groove to the max.
Potter’s biting tone has warmed in recent years, and his acerbic lines have gained rhythmic poise. Here, he curls his phrases seductively round the pulse of “The Peanut”, the album’s ballad, and imbues the minimally enhanced piano and sax duet with bittersweet romance.
The album ends with “Nowhere, Now Here” tied into a reprise of the album’s first track. It starts peacefully with Potter on flute, but it’s 25 minutes before we return to that opening floaty mood. By then the trio have barnstormed through grainy grooves and thunderous themes, solos have risen to a peak and soft-centred balladry has delivered a pool of tranquillity.
‘Sunrise Reprise’ is released by Edition