Chris Potter's Underground
Friday, September 24, 8 p.m.| Fulkerson Recital Hall, HSU
"Easily the most compelling saxophonist of his generation."
—Detroit Free Press
(For music and links, scroll to the bottom of this page)
We’ve been chasing Chris Potter for a long time—his two 2007 releases tied for our Album of the Year—but the man who’s routinely described as “the best saxophonist of his generation” is so busy touring, teaching, and recording that it takes a while to catch up with him.
Growing up in Columbia, South Carolina, Potter got his first musical education from his parents’ record collection, which spanned everything from Bach to Schoenberg, Gamelan music to the Beatles. But young Chris put Miles Davis and Dave Brubeck in especially heavy rotation, picked up the alto sax at 10, and played his first jazz gig at age 13. When piano legend Marian McPartland heard him two years later, she thought he was ready for the road. Instead, he finished school and moved to New York, studying at the New School and the Manhattan School of Music, where he formed a lasting friendship (and later recorded a duet record) with one of his professors, pianist Kenny Werner. After woodshedding for four years with bop trumpeter Red Rodney, Potter began an eclectic series of sideman gigs that included the Mingus Big Band, Ray Brown, Jim Hall, James Moody, and a revived Steely Dan. Meanwhile he recorded five albums as a leader for Concord (the last, 1998’s Vertigo, was named one of the year’s top ten by both Jazziz and the New York Times) before moving to Vanguard, then Sunnyside, and now the artist-controlled ArtistShare label.
Potter played key roles in late-nineties & early-aughts groups led by Paul Motian, Dave Holland and Dave Douglas, and he still tears up the critics’ and readers’ polls year after year. But while he built his reputation as a hard-blowing tenorist with a dazzling technique—he’s "(o)ne of the most studied (and copied) saxophonists on the planet," says DownBeat—for the past five years he’s concentrated on layering his impeccable post-bop sensibility over a foundation of deep, freewheeling funk. “My aesthetic is based in Bird and Lester Young and Sonny [Rollins],” he says. “I want my music to have that emotional impact. What I learned from them in terms of phrasing, sound, approach to rhythm will never be outdated.” And now he strives to adapt that sensibility to more contemporary rhythmic and harmonic concepts: “I want people to dance if they can, to feel the music and not think of it as something complicated and forbidding. I want to be communicating something. You can do that and not sacrifice anything artistically.”
Audiences—including legions of younger fans—around the world are clearly on board. With Craig Taborn on Fender Rhodes (replaced on this date by bassist Fima Ephron), Adam Rogers on guitar, and Nate Smith on drums, Chris Potter’s Underground has, as SF Jazz puts it, been “writing contemporary jazz history, one monstrous groove at a time.” We can’t wait for the next installment.
(Adapted from International Music Network)
Tickets ($15 General Admission, $10 Students & Seniors) are available here at our website, or at Missing Link Records, People's Records and The Works.
Chris Potter will also present a FREE public workshop—which, in a departure from usual practice (in order to accommodate the band's travel schedule), will take place Friday morning BEFORE the concert, at 11:00 a.m., in HSU's Old Music Building Room 131. People of all levels of experience are welcome to attend.
Words & Pixels:
Friday morning's pre-concert workshop is made possible through the generosity of HSU's Office of the President, Office of the Provost, the College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences, and the Department of Music.