To anyone that knows me it’s no secret that Chris Potter is one of my favorite musicians and this recording is a prime example of why. I’ve heard a number of criticisms about this recording citing that it is too technical and not very musical. While I patently disagree (true it is very technical, but I find it to be extremely musical as well) I think given the context of the recording, a masterclass at Youngstown University, it makes perfect sense that Chris would emphasize his virtuosic ability as a way of demonstrating what is possible as a saxophonist and as an improvising musician.
In my opinion this performance is a masterpiece. While it follows your basic jazz model of intro, head, solo, head, outro it is the way Chris is able to construct his solo so that each part is interesting, compelling and leads logically to the next section over the course of 12 minutes! Not to mention that as a solo instrument he must simultaneously fulfill the role of both soloist and rhythm section.
Looking at just the intro/outro sections you see two very different treatments of the same melody line. The intro is very rubato/out of time and uses increasing intervals to build tension just before starting the melody at ‘A.’ The outro is a very rhythmic vamp coupled primarily with blues scale licks. While based on the same line these two sections have very different feels to them.
The same can be found with the melody. The first statement of the melody is slightly rubato and, although it is highly embellished, it is still very recognizable as ‘All the Things You Are.’ The melody at the end is in a faster strict time with more linear, bebop style embellishments.
The solo section goes through several different variations/themes, from straight ahead swing/bop to triplet sections and double time feel sections. Some parts he is playing very fast and complicated lines and other parts he is simply outlining the chord changes as if walking a bass line. To me the most interesting part is the cadenza section that leads into the key change. Cadenzas in the middle of a song are not something you normally hear in jazz; usually you would hear the cadenza as intro or at the very end of the song.