Winnipeg's Jazz Magazine

July/August 2017: Anna-Lisa Kirby

Chris Potter

Written by:

I first saw Chris Potter in the early 1990s when he was travelling with Red Rodney, a trumpet player who was one of the last players to play with Charlie Parker before he died. Red Rodney was doing a gig in St. Louis at the Majestic Hotel but this kid on tenor saxophone was the show for me. His sound was like Michael Brecker even though he was on a bebop gig. It was tantalizing to have all that edge in all that Bird music. He was so young too.

Fast forward a few years and Chris Potter was the new who’s who. He was everywhere—Dave Holland, Billy Hart, you name it. He was with the cream. His name was mentioned alongside Roy Hargrove, Christian McBride, Wynton Marsalis…

I remember that everyone then was playing snakes. Snakes are long agile and extended solo lines that seemed to defy breathing. Chris Potter was playing dragons. Snakes with fire, explosions, talons, fangs, wings, and spiked tails. He was never less than jaw-dropping in his rhythmic dissertation. The recording Underground was one of my favorites even though he was becoming ubiquitous, and it didn’t matter who or what he was playing, that dragon came through when appropriate.

Potter can be heard with everyone from Steely Dan to Snarky Puppy to Pat Metheny to Herbie Hancock. He has a very distinct and physical sound. It’s punchy and edgy. He is a multi-instrumentalist and he can play flute and bass clarinet reminiscent of Eric Dolphy.

I don’t listen to Chris Potter for sentimental ballads, though he can do those too. For me, Potter is about adrenaline, muscle, and sophistication. Check him out!

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