For me, this CD is a consolation of sorts. I came home after a period away and saw Mark Soskin’s name on a poster for a concert that had occurred the week before. I’d only just missed hearing him live, and presumably on something like the same form as here, though not in the same company.
This is mostly a quartet set, like an earlier Soskin recording I cherish, which had Ravi Coltrane on tenor. Here, he has Chris Potter, who the publicity material for the disc suggests might be the most gifted tenor saxophonist of his generation. It would be good to check that out seriously, as listening to any serious competition, let alone any superior, would be really rewarding. There is surely such competition.
I last heard Potter in extended performance in trio with Steve Swallow, where he was mightily impressive on some very inventive originals. Most recently, I’ve heard him on the very recent John Patitucci set, one of several CDs on which Potter guests for a couple of tracks, and not always able to maintain the consistency found here.
Patitucci’s here, too. He seems to concentrate on sustained jazz work on double bass only on dates under other people’s names (which is no hardship for anybody!).
Bill Stewart’s the very effective drummer (In his notes, Soskin says that in preparing for gigs he always picks the drummer first) on an “On the Street Where You Live” distinguished by application of the verse as a solo piano intro. It’s not the fact that the second title is “Bemsha Swing” that makes me think of the Thelonious Monk Quartet. Soskin isn’t at all like Monk, but the tenor and piano front line has a considerable integration, the pianist’s right hand engaging in expressive unison with the saxophonist. Potter also sounds something like Monk’s longtime partner Charlie Rouse, possibly as an effect of articulating the Monk lines, but also because his sound has a body that might be expected of a tenorist of Rouse’s late 1940s generation, rather than the relative impoverishment of players too fixated on the musical big words of Ravi Coltrane’s father. Contemporaries Potter and Ravi excel.
This fuller sound fits well with Soskin, who, though not around in the 1940s, holds to virtues of sound and line and passion. The musicians all fit together well: hear the relation between Potter and Patitucci on Chick Corea’s “Innerspace”, and the interaction and coordination between the pianist’s strong left hand rhythmic punch and the bassist’s swingmaking. This one has an amazing drum solo, especially notable for Stewart’s breathy swish of cymbals.
The title track “One Hopeful Day” is the first of three Soskin originals, moody with some direct-as-Dexter-Gordon phrasing from the tenorist, and the vast sound of Patitucci’s bass in the first solo (fie on the PR minion who called that ripe sound “rubbery”!). It takes a lot of control and mastery to play with the directness Potter manifests on Soskin’s “Step Lively!”. This has the further enlivening of John Abercrombie’s presence—great to hear him in this context. “It’s Easy to Remember” has the full-bodied chording Soskin should be better known for, and more hard-toned but sensitive Potter, in a vein continued by “End of a Love Affair”.
On the second of the two Abercrombie guest spots, Potter switches to soprano, with a singing tone that blends nicely with the guitar. This is on Soskin’s I suppose strangely titled “Strive”, another slower, medium performance. Potter follows the guitar solo with a lighter-toned high-register solo with time-suspending runs, which the pianist takes up in his solo, its later stages enhanced by background work from the soprano. The freshness of melody at the end of this one prepares the listener for the accompanied piano solo delivery of Claire Fischer’s “Pensativa”, the dark fullness of Soskin’s sound in the meditative opening section, and the strong left hand keeping things moving in tempo through a more medium pace loosening up.
I really am sorry I missed his recent live gig here, but at least I have this strong set, its swing regardless of tempo, its… it’s still a shame I didn’t hear him live recently! Come back!