Jazz saxophonist Chris Potter brings quartet to Chapel

Sonia Emmons

Jazz saxophonist Chris Potter and his quartet, Underground, are coming to the Chapel this Friday, Feb. 8 at 8 p.m. Their performance, the third installment of the 2007-08 Lawrence University Jazz Series, will be the group’s last U.S. show before they begin an international tour.The concert promises to excite both jazz musicians and non-musicians alike. Potter, a Grammy Award nominee, is said in the reputable Lawrence University News to possess “limitless creativity and a vibrant sense of swing.”

Potter, who played his first jazz gig at the age of 13, has performed throughout the U.S., Canada, and Europe with famous jazz artists such as Dave Holland and Dave Douglas. According to junior trumpet player Harjinder Bedi, “He is a part of our generation’s new school of jazz giants.”

Bedi added, “Many jazz musicians of our generation are enthralled with Potter. People at Lawrence are caught up in the new school scene.”

Sophomore saxophonist Dan Meinhardt, a devoted Chris Potter fan, is one of those people. He believes that Potter is “taking music in a new direction. He’s trying to bring jazz back into the mainstream and make it more accessible.”

Meindhardt stressed the accessibility of Potter’s music: “The new album does things that are accessible and familiar, which makes the improvised music easier to understand.” The main things Meindhart referred to are the funk, hip-hop, and disco music that Potter incorporates into his own music.

Lawrence alumni Jacob Thomas (’05) and Jacob Teichroew (’05), known in their Lawrence days as “the Jacobs,” completed an honors project on Chris Potter in which they compared Potter’s solos to those of famous older jazz musicians.

First they transcribed Potter’s solos from his album “Gratitude,” which features tunes inspired by various jazz saxophone masters like Coleman Hawkins, Charlie Parker, and Sonny Rollins. Next, Thomas and Teichroew transcribed solos by these masters. The last step was to analyze and annotate the transcriptions.

After their transcribing and analyzing, the Jacobs found that Potter’s improvised solos contained harmonic and melodic elements that were part of the jazz language when Hawkins, Parker, and Rollins were playing, “only Potter played them with various innovative twists,” said Teichroew.

He described the value of Potter’s innovative techniques: “This way he roots himself in the jazz tradition, but also stays true to the creative and inventive spirit of the music. Also, he does it with phenomenal virtuosity and intensity.”

Meinhardt, too, mentioned Potter’s awareness and appreciation for both past and current jazz music. As he explained it, “Potter pays attention to what’s been happening and takes it forward using sound and texture.” This versatility appears to distinguish Potter from many of his contemporaries.

According to Teichroew, “There isn’t a saxophonist in all of New York who isn’t enthralled or frightened by Chris’s playing, and his approach seems to have in some way influenced virtually all of the sax players that I hear.”

Tickets for the concert are $22-20 for adults, $19-17 for seniors, and $17-15 for students. They are available through the Lawrence University Box Office, which can be reached at 920-832-6749.

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