Any short list of the finest musicians in modern jazz that doesn't include Chris Potter should be viewed with suspicion. When he joined trumpeter Red Rodney's band as a teenager, Potter already showed a remarkably mature understanding of his primary instrument (tenor sax) and the demands of improvisation. Despite his youth, his style sounded fully formed, but it turned out he was only getting started. Now 32, Potter has further honed his technique, extended his conceptual reach, and sharpened his solos into models of emotionally charged musical intellect. (When he appears with the Dave Holland Quintet, his solos incite the loudest cheers.) He's also built up an impressively diverse resume: among his more than 100 recordings are collaborations with Steely Dan, the Mingus Big Band, and Panamanian pianist Danilo Perez. He takes a dominant role on two of this year's notable live releases: the Holland Quintet's Extended Play (ECM) and Damaged in Transit (XtraWatt), a less heralded but terrific trio date led by bass guitar savant Steve Swallow. Potter has also made three recordings under the leadership of trumpeter Ryan Kisor, who shares the front line of the pianoless quartet Potter brings to Chicago this week. Two years Potter's junior, Kisor was a comparable prodigy: he won the Thelonious Monk Institute's trumpet competition at the age of 17 and made his first album at 19. Since establishing himself as a mainstay of the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra, he's developed a style far more contemporary than that group's somewhat hidebound approach. Like Potter, he commands a wizardly technique, and their work together has a special snap that derives from a shared mix of youth and musical wisdom. Friday and Saturday, November 21 and 22, 9 and 11 PM, and Sunday, November 23, 4, 8 and 10 PM, Jazz Showcase, 59 W. Grand; 312-670-2473.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Michael Jackson.