Over a 20-plus-year career, saxophonist Chris Potter has established himself as a fine sideman, soloist, and bandleader, and a purveyor of musical versatility. A list of his credits reads like a who's-who of modern music, and his own recordings have run the gamut from fiery electric jazz to vanguard experimentation to solid post-bop. The Dreamer Is the Dream is his third leader date for ECM. Here he is accompanied by pianist David Virelles, drummer Marcus Gilmore, and bassist Joe Martin. The album is comprised of six Potter originals, most of which run from nearly eight minutes to over ten. These tunes all offer abundant opportunities to explore his diverse lyricism, preponderance of interplay, and improvisation, and given this particular lineup, showcase his rhythmic muscle. "Heart in Hand" opens as a duet between pianist and saxophonist; the ensemble enters gradually, expanding the tune's ballad principle but gradually shifting into more uptempo and exploratory terrain. "Ilimba" commences with the sound of Gilmore's kalimba, but after a brief modal statement by Potter, his double-timed drums introduce Virelles' Afro-Latin groove and the entire jam becomes a knotty, funky sprint that swings like mad. Potter examines the margins in his solo, but remains tied to the pulse at the center. He introduces the title cut via bass clarinet. Its lyrical beauty is heightened by Martin's gorgeous bass solo. When the leader reverts to his saxophone to play a duet with him, a textural element is added onto the melody. "Yasodhara" is the longest track here and the most kinetic. Gilmore's hand percussion leads Potter's horn in, while Virelles and Martin follow very closely. The head's harmonic center has within it just enough openness for the band to develop it and they do, with knotty angles built in by the composer. As they engage with one another, new levels of harmony are absorbed into the mix, leading to fiery, complex solos from Virelles and Potter. The Dreamer Is the Dream is impressive for all the right reasons. Potter's tunes are all top flight, for one. He appears to have written them for the considerable strength of this band and he makes no attempt to ride herd over them. For their part, the players' intuitive engagement with him and one another is dictated by a collective willingness to let the music do the primary talking and respond in kind. This is yet another strong outing for Potter.
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AllMusic Review by Thom Jurek