Gig review – Chris Potter’s Underground, 13 March 2018

Looking back at my gig reviews, I noticed that it’s been a few months since my last gig.  My recent visit, however, to Ronnie Scott’s jazz club to see Chris Potter’s Underground sees the belated start to my 2018 campaign.  I’ve already a few in the diary, including The Cure, Wynton Marsalis, Harold Budd, and Cigarettes After Sex, so there’ll be plenty more to come in terms of gig reviews.

I’ve a few Chris Potter albums, mainly, I admit, because of the company he keeps.  His albums feature top pianists/keyboard players, including the likes of Craig Taborn, Kevin Hays, and David Virelles.  As a pianist I’m always going to be interested in what my fellow instrumentalists are up to.  Chris Potter is equally revered, especially by saxophonists, and has garnered numerous plaudits over his career.  So it wasn’t a hard decision when invited to go along and see his band play.  My only reservation was that the quartet didn’t include a keyboard player.  The quartet was completed by Adam Rogers (guitar), Fima Ephron (bass) and Dan Weiss (drums).  As you’d expect, they’re all top players in their own right.

Potter didn’t appear to be much of a talker (if this gig was anything to go by), letting his horn do it for him.  The set was varied with the band serving up a fusion of jazz, blues, funk and rock.  I can’t recall most of the names of the tunes played but can tell you that they played The Dreamer is the Dream, the title track of Potter’s 2017 album, and The Wheel, from Potter’s 2006 album underground, the closing tune of the evening.

What most of the tunes had in common was groove. Dan Weiss (who was for me the star of the evening) and Fima Ephron looked after the groove, taking you on all sorts of interesting rhythmic journeys but always dropping you off in the right place at the right time.  Potter was a never-ending fountain of creativity and invention. His ability to conjure so many interesting ideas within the space of a tune, while not trading this for musicality is why he’s so revered.  Rogers sounded slightly schizophrenic on guitar, his solos often alternating between chordal lines and flurries of bebop lines.  For my money, the band got better as the night went on but was at its best on the slower, more sparse Dreamer is the Dream.

For all this, I found myself disengaged with the music on a basic emotional level.  I appreciated the musicality but just didn’t warm to what was served up.  I should note that the audience as a whole certainly enjoyed the experience, as did my companion, so I’ll put this down to personal preference.