CHRIS POTTER: A musical prodigy who had his first professional jazz gig at the age of 13, he was also the youngest recipient ever of the prestigious Danish Jazzpar Prize, which is one of the most respected awards in the jazz world.
It is London Jazz Festival time again. As always venues across London are offering up a blend of legends and budding talent from all around the world and, as always, London’s oldest jazz clubs Ronnie Scott’s is playing host to some of the scene’s top billers. In the first week of the festival it opened its doors to one of the most accomplished saxophonists of his generation, Chris Potter.
Potter was born 39 years ago in Chicago and is undoubtedly a musical prodigy who had his first professional jazz gig at the age of 13. He was also the youngest recipient ever of the prestigious Danish Jazzpar Prize, which is one of the most respected awards in the jazz world.
Potter’s first instrument was the piano but he started playing the saxophone when he heard "Take Five", written by Paul Desmond and performed by Dave Brubeck. “I think I’d always heard the saxophone in a rock and roll context, that harsh, ugly sound. And then I heard Paul Desmond make it real pretty. So I started with alto,” says Potter.
He mastered several instruments including piano, tenor and soprano saxophones, as well as flute and bass clarinet. The list of great jazz musicians who influenced him includes John Coltrane, Charlie Parker, Ben Webster, Coleman Hawkins, Sonny Rollins, Ornette Coleman, Eric Dolphy, Dewey Redman, Stan Getz and Lester Young. And the roll call of greats he has recorded or played with is equally impressive, such as Patricia Barber, Marian McPartland, the Mingus Big Band, James Moody, Dave Douglas, Joe Lovano, Wayne Krantz, Steely Dan and John Scofield.
Currently he is on tour with his Underground quartet with Adam Rogers on guitar, Craig Taborn on Fender Rhodes, and Nate Smith on drums. In London he played two gigs at Ronnie Scott’s jazz club.
Potter and his band kicked off with "Ultrahang," a piece from his lastest recording that has received mixed reviews from jazz critics. Nevertheless, they performed it superbly and the audience was enchanted. Then followed more tunes, including the brilliant "Viva las Vilniu" from the album Follow the Red Line and "The Wheel" from the Underground recording.
But just when the boys were starting to warm up the concert came to an end after just over an hour which was rather disappointing, for the gathered crowd of jazz aficionados feverishly anticipating something very special from one of the world’s best.
What they got was a well-balanced and well-played performance from a band of brilliant musicians. What they missed out on was that sparkle that makes a gig really memorable – seeing a great artists get lost in the joy of sharing what they do best with people who can really appreciate it.
If Chris Potter comes to town again, I would have to think twice before rushing out to see him. Unless of course someone offered me a free ticket.
To find out more about the tour please go to Chris Potter’s website: http://www.chrispottermusic.com