There’s a Tide is one of the best jazz albums you’ll hear this year from a 12-piece band. The awe-inspiring aspect is that all twelve pieces are played by Chris Potter. As amazing as that is, the song’s are a superb collection with Chris’ impressive imprint on each track. s expected the woodwinds take the lead on each track here as Chris displays his remarkable dexterity on clarinet, bass clarinet, flute, alto flute and of course saxophones. Chris seamlessly switches the lead from one to the next and blends them smoothly so the album is remarkably cohesive. On top of that, the composition of all of the ‘supporting’ instruments is rock solid and that makes each track a winner. See the sidebar for how the evolution of the album is described on BandCamp.
For each track there’s at least one lead woodwind, sometimes two or three, and several solos that I try to call out in the track-by-track rundown below.
“It’s a year no one will forget, a year in which the global lockdown was shared by all, and yet experienced in a million different ways.
For Chris Potter, a musician who has been on the road continuously since the 1990s, whose raison d’etre is playing live, lockdown presented both a challenge and an opportunity. It’s a tribute to his creativity, personal integrity and huge musical talent that Chris was able to take on this challenge and make something unbelievably fresh from the opportunity.
Starting in May 2020, as the Black Lives Matter movement was kicking off (reflected in the track ‘I Had A Dream’), Chris set out to create something alone, to express his reaction to these chaotic times. Uniquely, playing each and every instrument: piano, keyboards, electric and acoustic guitars, bass guitar, drums, clarinet, bass clarinet, flute, alto flute, percussion, samples and of course saxophones, Chris took just six weeks to complete the whole process.”
I Had a Dream: Chris lays down the groove with some meditative bass and drum, followed by soft guitar playing. Chris then comes in with an airy flute lead. The main melody is carried by flute and sax but the mixing here is great and it’s a beautiful start to the album. About halfway, there’s a switch to a signature flowing sax solo. Again, when the full ‘band’ comes back, the lead is carried by the clarinet. The finish is some again some very light flute to fade out.
Like a Memory: The stage is set by a piano-guitar duet before Chris lays down multiple sax lines with clarinet. It’s actually tough to keep track of all the instrumentation as the blending is so smooth. Chris comes in again midway with a fine sax solo. There’s some nice low end soloing next. The close is a flighty flute solo with keys to fade.
Mother of Waters: ‘Mother’ kicks off with some African sounding percussion and Chris again brings in the flute lead first. It has a terrific bass line leading into a sax and piano section. A brief piano lead brings in sounds like a soprano sax solo. Each of the tracks on this album have top notch arranging and this one shines. It’s very ‘accessible’ to all jazz listeners. The close is a full on afro-percussion section
Rising Over You: The beginning here sounds funky with a very solid bass line before Chris starts riding over the top with a combination of horns including clarinet and sax. There’s some trading between the horns and piano. A full on clarinet solo comes midway and Chris crushes it. A classic tenor solo is accompanied by drums, bass, and some gentle piano. He blends in some flute near the solo and and it’s a fine effect. Chris has his own style of course but I definitely feel some Brecker Brothers vibe on this one.
Oh So Many Stars: The beautiful one starts with some very gentle guitar and piano. The flute takes the lead early and the distinctive melody is established. The flute segues into a sax lead. The break is an extended mellifluous tenor sax solo and Potter fans will swoon. The next section mixes flute with bass clarinet covering the full sound spectrum before the sax closing. This is such a great tune and halfway through the album you know this is something special.
Drop You Anchor Down: Bass clarinet leads on this song with some deep bass — is that the anchor? The clear tone is so unique and something that’s unfortunately not heard that often on jazz records. It dominates the tune that also features some excellent guitar and brushes on the drums. It’s great when the flute solo comes midway to balance the tune that already has such depth. Flute continues along with sax right to the finish
Beneath the Waters: The fast-paced tune sounds like it could be an instrumental Steely Dan number. At the onset the horn section is synchronized with solid piano, guitar, bass and percussion. Bass clarinet is featured again before a break and transition to sax solo. I really like the horns playing off the bass clarinet on this. Towards the end there’s some nice kick drum work egging the horns to roll back and forth between two groupings in the left and right channels.
Rest Your Head: Chris starts out with a bass line as the foundation for a smooth tenor opening. It’s an understatement to say that his tone is perfect and this is one of the most powerful tunes on the album. The clarinet section follows and is equally strong. Chris then drives a whole horn section together — it really shows his talents.
As the Moon Ascends: Water flows to shore for the beginning here and then some soothing flute comes along. Chris brings in some charming chimes, triangle (?) and metal percussion to accent the interplay of the horns. The second second is marked by some heavy bass as a powerful contrast to the opening. The layering of the horn section for the body of the song is stunning. This is a terrific composition.
New Life (In the Wake of Major Devastation): With the guitar-bass-drum opening here, Chris sets the rhythm in motion for a lush sax voice to carry through early on. Overall this tune is uplifting as highlighted by the title. The ‘orchestra’ backing Chris’ sax solo up to the end is outstanding. The sample ending is a nice touch
Point blank, this is one of the great jazz albums of the year. The fact that it was a solo effort makes it all the more incredible.
When I was at the GroundUP Music Festival in 2020 before this album was released, I really wanted to meet and say hello to Chris and I got my chance on the very last night with the pic to the right. It was a wonderful moment for me and really punctuated with this album.
I hope my writing is up to snuff here to convey how much I enjoyed listening to this over and over. I’m sure that this one will be listened to for years to come.
Chris Potter plays –
- electric and acoustic guitars
- bass guitar
- bass clarinet
- alto flute