The debut album by American band Potter’s Daughter was released towards the end of 2018, but I only came across it a few months ago, since when I have been trying to work out exactly how I can describe it. The band were formed when Dyanne Potter Voegtlin (piano, keyboards, vocals) was studying classical piano performance at the Manhattan School of Music. She wanted to find a way to combine her knowledge of classical theory and virtuosity with the freedom and innovation of jazz, creating something that in many ways is quite different to the rest of the scene. The very first time I heard this I felt there was a kinship with Renaissance, and I can’t be the only one as since the release of this album the band have collaborated with Annie Haslam on a single, “Blood and Water”. Dyanne has performed both as a classical pianist and a singer/songwriter in venues as prestigious as Carnegie Hall, so she was always going to look for the right musicians to fulfil her dream and she found them in Amit Chatterjee (guitar, bass, arranger, producer), Ian C. Voegtlin (guitar, EWI), Walter Sitz (drums) and Randy Crafton (percussion).
Musically the album is based around the piano and vocals of Dyanne as she works on bridging that gap between classical and jazz, with the use of space being a very important part of her armoury. At times, her voice is solo, at others it is multi-tracked harmonies, and there are times when she is singing just against percussion with no other melodies around. However, it isn’t possible to overstate the important of Amit to the overall sound as there are times when the guitar is subdued and actually non-existent and others when there are strident solos breaking through and over her voice while the bass is always warm and comforting.
There are times when this feels very much like a jazz album which is being taken in new directions, with “Memento” being an obvious example. However it is on the softer side, with piano often using sustain as opposed to the short staccato liked by many, while the lead guitar also takes on many forms, moving from sounds associated with jazz into fusion and then more into rock and prog. This is a band who are truly progressive, melding the forms to make something which is relaxed and laid back yet also inviting and urgent. The arrangements are in many ways incredibly simple, relying on a few key elements, yet that restraint is what makes this album what it is as there is no need to keep piling things on top of each other.
“Its Summer Night” contains classical choral vocals along with minor chords and a dark feeling which sounds more like Mediæval Bæbes than anything connected with rock, and it is the way this album progresses through different styles which makes it so interesting as one is never really sure what is going to happen next. Relaxing, exciting, enjoyable, and fluid, this is a rippling stream with the light catching the water as it babbles over the stones in the riverbed. There is so much space between the notes, and between the instruments, that one can get inside the music and into the minds of the musicians creating it and feel at one. What a wonderful debut, next please!