Having recently released There Is A Tide, a one-man album which featured Chris Potter on all 14 instruments and was later hailed one of the best jazz albums of 2020, Sunrise Reprise has a lot to live up to. This, and the fact that the last time Potter, Harland and Francies played together was on Circuits, means that the sense of anticipation and expectation for Sunrise Reprise was always going to be extremely high. Potter has been releasing albums for over 25 years now; his ability to continually refresh and renew his own musical style and output is an impressive accomplishment. Sunrise Reprise marks another new movement forward for Potter - with Eric Harland on drums and James Francies on keys, this album is an extremely modern exploration. Featuring synths and electronics as on Circuits, yet taking a new approach to composition and the musical journey, Potter’s new album is definitely a refreshing listen. Intense ensemble playing, virtuosic solos, emotional peaks and troughs - Sunrise Reprise is not an album to be missed.
‘Sunrise and Joshua Trees’ opens the album with atmospheric synths, wave-like electronics, and Potter’s piercing tenor sax tone. Somehow, Potter manages to control his tone in a way which is at once piercing and soothing - it’s both honest and comforting. This cognitive dissonance is furthered by the warm yet haunting melody, which creates an extremely satisfying experience for the listener. The sense of questioning and searching exploration on ‘Sunrise and Joshua Trees’ is mirrored in the beautiful ballad ‘The Peanut’. What’s striking on this track is the beauty of Potter’s control, accompanied by Francies’ tasteful and soul-filled harmony on piano. The melodic line on ‘The Peanut’ is so intimate, completely enveloping the listener and provoking goosebumps. Again a sense of warmth is conveyed even as Potter laments on sax - he really is a master of his instrument.
‘a sense of warmth is conveyed even as Potter laments on sax - he really is a master of his instrument.’
The album’s singles, ‘Southbound’ and ‘Serpentine’, provide a completely different quality, whilst still adhering to the cohesive soundscapes which have been established by the trio. What comes across on ‘Southbound’ is a sense of movement which isn’t as prominent in the tracks previously mentioned - the warmth is still there, but Potter’s virtuosic soloing has a sudden and welcome urgency to it. Francies completely matches this energy on his synth solo, and with Harland on drums, the piece really begins to build and lift. The trio’s ability to maintain our engagement through constantly original and refreshing musical choices is truly compelling; the piece ends triumphantly, and rightly so. ‘Serpentine’ furthers this sense of urgency through its movement, but its irregular timing definitely adds another level of intensity which was absent on ‘Southbound’. With the flute and sax lines playing complicated lines in unison, at times there seems to be some Chick influences on the piece, which only add to the album’s musical diversity. The comping from Francies on this track is incredibly sensitive, and Potter’s solo feels both wild and incredibly controlled. The trio are clearly masters of their instruments - it’s an honour to experience.
The trio are clearly masters of their instruments - it’s an honour to experience.
With ‘Serpentine’ ringing in our ears, ‘Nowhere, Now Here/Sunrise Reprise’ ends the album with the most explorative piece yet. At over 24 minutes in length, ‘Nowhere’ takes us on a truly musical, spiritual, and creative journey; although the piece may seem self-indulgent in its length, it in fact follows an exact trajectory which never loses the listener. The piece is the length it must be, in order to delve into - and cyclically return to - all of the musical ideas it wishes to explore. ‘Nowhere’ features mellow moments of the comforting known, and exciting exploratory moments of the challenging unknown. With echoing sax, constantly driving drum grooves, and questioning bass lines, the piece moves through many different emotional spheres. What’s strange is the continued tension between two ideas, creating that same cognitive dissonance that was felt earlier, but in a new way. The swirling synth and elliptical electronics put us in a trance-like state as listeners, yet because the musicians still stay grounded throughout, this duality is created. This sense of grounded creativity, or grounded improvisation, is what we have taken away from this album - it’s a truly beautiful set of tracks with real talent and real intention.
‘Sunrise Reprise is a modern, innovative and compelling album which we cannot recommend enough.’
Sunrise Reprise is Chris Potter’s newest release in a canon of incredible music, but it feels particularly special because of its soulful and sensitive approach to the music. The duality of the compositions is what immediately arrests us as an audience, but also what maintains our engagement and keeps us guessing throughout the album’s journey. The combination of Potter, Harland and Francies playing in a trio setting creates pure magic - we can’t wait to hear them play together live. Sunrise Reprise is a modern, innovative and compelling album which we cannot recommend enough.
Review by Evie Hill