WBGO Blog
  • Chris Potter Underground At The Village Vanguard

    September 16, 2008. Posted by WBGO.

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    Chris Potter. (Image Credit: Donald Dietz/NPR)

    In recent years, Chris Potter has been hatching a new identity. Already considered one of his generation's premier improvisers, the tenor saxophonist has been devising a way to merge his cutting virtuosity into a different type of working band; one that conjures up crisp, backbeat-heavy electronic textures. On Tuesday, Sept. 16, Potter led his quartet, called the Chris Potter Underground, back into underground Manhattan for a show at the Village Vanguard, broadcast live on air by WBGO and live online by NPR Music.

    In two discs, the Chris Potter Underground has established an attractively progressive sound, merging knotty rhythms, angular harmonies and even free improvisation with the accessibility of pulpy, visceral grooves. On faster tunes, it works in part because of its oblique references to funk polyrhythms; on slower songs, beautiful melodies emerge over fuzzy washes of sound. The sound also owes much to its rhythm section, which seems able to compose spontaneously while still exercising the tact required around electronic instruments. Guitarist Adam Rogers, who made his debut as a bandleader at the Vanguard earlier this year, interjects floating riffs and amplified shredding alike; keyboardist Craig Taborn, who often rigs up innovative plugged-in atmospheres with his own projects, is characteristically fluid on the Fender Rhodes; and drummer Nate Smith rounds it out with plenty of hard-edged kick and snare accents.

    Potter first emerged as a young New York prodigy around the dawn of the 1990s. A stint with bebop legend Red Rodney, three years a trumpeter to Charlie Parker, earned him plenty of opportunities, as did the support of Piano Jazz host Marian McPartland, who brought him to the attention of Concord Records. But, unlike many young stars, Potter matured quickly: In countless subsequent recordings as both leader and sideman (at times reaching 20 appearances on disc per year), he established an eclectic, forward-thinking voice celebrated by critics and peers, with a level of technical control to match.

    Not yet 40, Potter continues to rise to the forefront of the jazz world. Having long played in high-profile bands led by Dave Holland and (until recently) Dave Douglas, Potter has been fielding more and more requests for gigs; these days, it's hard to think of artists with whom he hasn't yet worked. In 2007, he celebrated the release of two very different projects at once: Song for Anyone, a set of intricate originals orchestrated for a 10-person ensemble, and the Chris Potter Underground's Follow the Red Line, recorded live at — where else? — the Village Vanguard.

    Currently residing in Hungary while off tour, Potter returns to the city where he made his name on stage. With Red Rodney, Potter made his debut at the Village Vanguard as a 19-year-old saxophonist in 1990.

  • Notes From The SS WBGO

    September 14, 2008. Posted by Amy Niles.

    Ahoy readers. Josh Jackson sends posts from the Village Vanguard so I have decided to do the same from the co-anchor chair during the drive. Read more

  • The Drive Starts

    September 11, 2008. Posted by Amy Niles.

    In the two years that I have been fortunate enough to be a part of this great WBGO family as an employee, I don't think that I have experienced a more unifying experience as our member drives. Read more

  • Live Blog: Motian/Frisell/Lovano at the Village Vanguard

    September 3, 2008. Posted by Joshua Jackson.

    Vanguard Motian Trio Marquee

    8:00pm
    The show starts an hour from now, and we're as ready as we can be.  The crew arrived at 6pm, and Bill Frisell was sitting onstage, practicing silently.  He seemed to like the alone time, so we didn't bother him.  Paul Motian came to the club for a minute, then darted off to dinner.  Joe Lovano was leaving the airport in Cleveland at 3:30pm.  Haven't seen him yet.  With jazz, all is in flux, always.

    8:30pm
    Due to an emergency, Joe Lovano missed opening night.  Saxophonist Bill McHenry, who plays regularly with Paul Motian, subbed for both sets last night. This is the second night of the trio's residency, but the first evening they're together.  Aftermore than two decades of playing together, these guys can just come in and play.

    9:02pm
    We're live.  The trio is playing "The Bag Man," from their ECM release, I Have The Room Above Her.  Named after the Jerome Kern song from Showboat.

    9:10pm
    This trio is comprised of musicians who are some of the foremost interpreters of Thelonious Monk's music.  This one called "Light Blue."  Motian played a week with Monk, but considers him a looming influence.

    9:23pm
    After a beautiful "Time and Time Again," the trio goes into one of their familiar songs, "Jack of Clubs."  These gentlemen are completely in the moment...

    9:33pm
    Thelonious Monk's "Ruby My Dear," minus piano.  Bill Frisell's opening is wafting around the ether.  Float like a butterfly...

    9:42pm
    I'm detecting a trend here.  This is "Let's Cool One," another Monk composition.

    9:51pm
    I really love this song.  It's called "Cambodia."  Apparently, Manfred Eicher from ECM inspired the name.  He said it sounded like Cambodia.  Maybe minus the Khmer Rouge?

    9:58pm
    Bill Frisell = sound architect.  This is amazing.

    10:05pm  After a brief snippet of "Drum Music," we end.  Regretfully.  But the band here for the next two weeks.  It's even better in person.  Ciao.
    -Josh