BY MICHAEL TOLAND
Not all jazz records need to be energy-spewing improv fests, as Duke Ellington and Miles Davis repeatedly proved. Sometimes jazz can be used to narrative effect, telling a story in wordless song. Saxophonist Chris Potter, late of the Dave Holland Quintet, explores that terrain on Imaginary Cities, his first record with his new Underground Orchestra. Working with guitar, piano, drums, two bassists, his former Holland colleague Steve Nelson on vibes and a string section led by longtime NYC sparkplug Mark Feldman, Potter crafts carefully arranged cinematic soundscapes.
Moods range from playful (“Firefly”) to melancholy (“Lament”), unsettling (“Shadow Self”) to elegiac (“Sky”). But the record reaches its compositional and emotional apex with the four-part title track, a travelogue through urban atmosphere that hits every beat you can imagine: sweet, sour, lush, dissonant, inspiring, depressing – just like the naked city itself. There are, after all, a million stories there, and Potter and his Orchestra bring them to vivid, musical life.
DOWNLOAD: “Imaginary Cities: Dualities,” “Imaginary Cities: Rebuilding,” “Sky”