On each of his three ECM albums, saxophonist and composer Chris Potter has gone into the studio with different concepts. The Dreamer Is the Dream features the acoustic quartet format, with a new lineup of highly unique players. David Virelles takes over the piano chair previously held by Craig Taborn, with drummer Marcus Gilmore and bassist Joe Martin completing the group.
The album opens with “Heart in Hand,” one of the tracks Potter wrote using a method he describes as a “dream state,” and its direction evokes that kind of sleepy reverie. It flows gently but steadily like an improvisation, and the rhythm section follows his expansive lines closely, helping him blur the boundaries between composition and spontaneity. The title track comes from this same writing method, with Potter beginning on bass clarinet and switching back to tenor after Martin’s probing bass solo. “Ilimba” starts with Potter plucking a motif on the titular thumb piano, before moving on to one of the set’s more aggressive tenor solos. Virelles and Gilmore trail him, the latter using Potter’s sense of melodic development in his own percussive showcase. The improvisation in “Memory and Desire” also comes off like an extended composition, notable for its overdubbed woodwinds that reside in the background, as well as for the 90-odd seconds of electronic samples that Potter unleashes in the free opening.