LIVE: The Chris Potter Trio @ A Place For Jazz, 11/13/15

November 19th, 2015, 4:00 pm by Greg
The Drew Gress Trio

The Chris Potter Trio

Review by Jeff Nania
Photographs by Rudy Lu

A Place For Jazz finished the 2015 season with saxophonist Chris Potter’s new trio featuring drummer Adam Cruz and bassist Drew Gress, as they gave the performance which launched the rest of their U.S. tour.

They may have had some reliable devices with which they arranged tunes – the Potter out front-solo-solo-repeated riff by Potter and Gress-formula popped up a few times, but these were incredibly effective in creating a semblance of meat and structure for what could otherwise be a harmonically deficient format.

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Potter was also keen to switch up his instrumentation. He played mostly tenor but picked up a bass clarinet for the ethereal “Dream Three.” He played an unaccompanied intro then an ostinato melody section which existed somewhere outside of time while Cruz made his way around the kit with mallets on the drum set and Gress plucked out a deep brooding slow bass part. Potter finished stating the melody and handed it off to Gress for a bass solo while Cruz grabbed for a small shaker to ease the space back down to nothing as Gress then also had a chance to play unaccompanied before Cruz again picked up his brushes and laid them just on the snare drum for a bit with quiet bursts from the cymbals.

“Dream Three” may have been the most different tune of the evening, but that’s not to say that everything was all so straight-ahead. Sure, the trio played the beautiful Mal Waldron ballad “Soul Eyes,” and then later showed their appreciation to the crowd with an encore performance of Charlie Parker’s “Relaxin’ at Camarillo,” but there was plenty of hard driving stuff throughout the night, including the hard hitting opening which was an obscured but recognizable tune by the Police, and the Potter original “Dr. Bentley,” which was “for all you ‘Naked Lunch’ fans out there,” Potter said referencing William S. Burroughs’ famous novel.

“Dr. Bentley” also opened with just saxophone and then Potter played a melodic lick that was doubled by Gress. Potter and Gress also hooked up on a repeated riff after their solos and let Cruz improvise across the groove. He started out with mostly a fierce lay into the tom toms and then continued with a lot of colorful cymbal work. Potter kept finding interesting harmonies to play over Gress while maintaining the riff. When Cruz was fairly done soloing he also began to drive the groove which let Potter expand a little longer.

There were also a couple of pieces throughout the evening featuring Potter on the soprano which had Aaron Copland-esque Americana melodies punctuated by funkier sections like Potter’s original “Eagle.”

After the intermission WVCR DJ and regular Nippertown contributor J Hunter took to the stage beside Potter, listing off many of Potter’s credentials and talking about his appearances in the Capital Region in recent memory. This was on behalf of the Jazz Journalists Association and the presentation of an award recognizing Potter as “Tenor Saxophonist of the Year.”

The second half of the night featured even more rhythmic and stylistic diversity as the trio played “Summer ‘15,” which Potter described as “your basic calypso in five,” and another original called simply “Calypso,” which was actually an ostinato melody before expanding on the bouncy calypso groove.

“Summer ’15” had Cruz laying into some cowbells and snare and bass drum, while Gress played the bouncy calypso. Cruz took a solo primarily on the wooden shells of the drums while Potter and Gress again locked into a pattern. At the very end was a more intensely different time signature and a funky line that led all the way to the finish.

A saxophone trio with just bass and drums leaves a lot of space. The vacuum left by the piano or guitar just begs to be filled, and it takes some serious chops from all parties involved, as well as some creative compositional work, to keep things from getting stale. Luckily, all of those things were in place last Friday night, and A Place For Jazz finished its concert season with its largest attendance of the year.

Chris Potter

Chris Potter

Drew Gress and Adam Cruz

Drew Gress and Adam Cruz

Drew Gress

Drew Gress

Adam Cruz

Adam Cruz

The Chris Potter Trio

The Chris Potter Trio

J Hunter presenting  Chris Potter with the Tenor Saxophonist of the Year award.

J Hunter presenting Chris Potter with the Tenor Saxophonist of the Year award.

One thought on “LIVE: The Chris Potter Trio @ A Place For Jazz, 11/13/15”

  1. A great evening of music perfectly captured by the review and Rudy’s b & w photos.

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