Chris Potter Credit: Tamás Talabér

For much of the last decade reedist Chris Potter has been experimenting with new forms, whether dipping deep into a groove-heavy electric sound with his band Underground or exploring orchestral writing and conceptual frames on his 2015 album Imaginary Cities. He’s pulled back a bit on his lush, patient new quartet recording The Dreamer Is the Dream (his third album for ECM), occupying the postbop comfort zone that’s made him one of the most admired jazz artists of his time and an idol for countless students. But he’s also engaging in some quiet new experiments. Potter’s supported by one of his strongest bands to date: bassist Joe Martin along with Cuban pianist David Virelles and drummer Marcus Gilmore, two of the most distinctive practitioners of their given instruments in improvised music. The album opens with a tender, rhapsodic ballad where Potter uses his agile tenor to unfurl an extended solo of exquisite beauty and calm, gently caressed by his rhythm section, which stokes the smoky atmosphere with subtle accents. He begins the cool burner “Ilimba” with cycling kalimba lines as Virelles obliquely references driving montuno patterns within a rangy solo, while “Yashodhara” employs an extended rhythmic cycle borrowed from Indian classical music. Such excursions, however, never get in the way of the leader’s smoldering intensity or his investment in postbop fundamentals.   v