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Chris Potter at the Cheltenham Jazz Festival

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Tuesday April 10, 2012

from Financial Times

As the Cheltenham Jazz Festival showcases saxophonist Chris Potter, he talks about balancing performance with composition
By: Mike Hobart

Chris Potter is the stand-out tenor sax technician of our times, with the same hard-edged fluency, harmonic know-how and pinpoint timing that marked out the late Michael Brecker. His 15 albums stretch from hard-edged fusion to the straight-ahead, while McCoy Tyner and Herbie Hancock head an extensive list of credits. And next month the Cheltenham Jazz Festival gives a rare opportunity to hear him recreate the elegiac settings of his string-supported tentette album Song for Anyone.

Not all that long ago Potter’s name would have figured regularly on pop-album sleeves as a featured soloist or been part of a top-notch brass section. But the 41-year-old American’s generation of frontline virtuosi have been squeezed into occasional add-ons and brass sections have long been sampled into oblivion. Today’s crossover front-runners have market-friendly keyboard skills or vocal talent and, like Robert Glasper and Esperanza Spalding, reference hip-hop, dance and left-field pop.

Potter’s years as a high-profile sideman and his well-received personal projects have paid off, and he is now a main attraction. His recent sold-out shows at Ronnie Scott’s, with his new acoustic quartet – a return to his sonic roots, he later told me – demonstrated a welter of fresh-minted detail, breathtaking energy and technical skill. Potter and his band peeled off layers of modern jazz history and remoulded them into sharp and shadowy shapes to give new insights to a tried and tested form.

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