Got the Keys to the Kingdom: Live at the Village Vanguard, Chris Potter

Chris Potter was born in Chicago, Illinois, but his family moved to Columbia, South Carolina, where he spent his formative years. Potter showed an early interest in a wide variety of different music and learned several instruments, including the guitar and piano. He realized after hearing Paul Desmond that the saxophone would be the vehicle that would best allow him to express himself musically.[1] He has been quoted by Jazz Times as saying that, "'Music has always been a vehicle for me to investigate the things that are important about life. It’s been a way of figuring out what it is I need to say. Plus, I keep learning new things about it.'"[2]

He took up the alto saxophone at age 10, playing his first jazz gig at 13. He developed a devoted local following while performing with Johnny Helms and Terry Rosen. After leaving Columbia upon his graduation from Dreher High School, Potter attended college in New York City, first at The New School and later at the Manhattan School of Music. In New York he began performing with Red Rodney. He is currently based out of New York City. Potter first came to prominence as a sideman with trumpeter Red Rodney (1992–1993), before extended stints with drummer Paul Motian (1994–2009), bassist Dave Holland (1999–2007), trumpeter Dave Douglas (1998–2003) and session work, while also maintaining an active solo career.

Got the Keys to the Kingdom: Live at the Village Vanguard, Chris Potter

One of the finest saxophonists on the planet teams up with an all-star
heavy-weight band at the storied New York venue in a set of covers. This
is some of the most classic and exciting live music from a modern, small
band ensemble that you’ll hear today.

Chris Potter – tenor saxophone
Craig Taborn – piano
Scott Colley – bass
Marcus Gilmore – drums
1 You Gotta Move 14.01
2 Nozani Na 10.53
3 Blood Count 9.01
4 Klactoveedsedstene 7.26
5 Olha Maria 6.22
6 Got the Keys to the Kingdom 13.37

Got the Keys to the Kingdom is the new album from world-renowned saxophonist Chris Potter, recorded live at the Village Vanguard in February 2022. Since joining Edition Records in 2019, he has released two albums with his Circuits Trio (featuring James Francies and Eric Harland), as well as the multi-tracked solo record: ‘There Is A Tide’. Chris’ latest album features an all-star band comprising Craig Taborn, Scott Colley and Marcus Gilmore, recorded live in arguably the most famous and revered Jazz club in the world. The new record is bursting with energy – in the moment and free. The track list exclusively features covers, often simple, joyous spiritual songs walking a path between augmenting the music but not losing the rawness of the original. Reimagined folk tunes (Nozani Na, Olha Maria), powerful spirituals (Got the Keys to the Kingdom) and uncommon jazz standards (Blood Count, Klactoveedsedstene) make the final cut from the multi-night residency. It’s a track list that defies convention allowing the band space to explore with some melodies that may not be so familiar to fans of the music; as Chris says himself – “these are tunes people don’t usually play”.

The band plays with unity and spirit, injecting momentum and seamless flow. Craig Taborn’s majestic sheets of sound, Scott Colley’s earthiness and Marcus Gilmore’s fiery pulse are commanding and compelling when fused together with Chris Potter’s distinctive biting and nuanced playing. There’s no doubt that Chris Potter is entering a new phase in his career; since the lockdowns brought a
stop to his unrelenting schedule of touring, Chris has had more hours to practice and compose. The result is some of the highest level playing you’ll hear – with ultimate humility and character.

The album is situated within the historic Village Vanguard, and the sound of this incredible room and the energy of the audience is palpable. Close your eyes, tune in and you can almost imagine you’re sitting within the hallowed walls of one of the world’s most iconic venues. Expect high energy, intensity, technical brilliance, effervescent joy and a snapshot of one of the world’s greatest saxophonists in his element.

Tune credits:
You Gotta Move (Mississippi Fred McDowell)
Nozani Na (Amazonian folk tune, transcribed by Edgar Roquette-Pinto and Heitor Villa-Lobos)
Blood Count (Billy Strayhorn)
Klactoveedsedstene (Charlie Parker)
Olha Maria (Antonio Carlos Jobim/Chico Buarque/Vinicius De Moraes)
Got the Keys to the Kingdom (traditional/spiritual)

Episode #361

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