Full Biography of Chris Potter
Born January 1, 1971 (age 47)
Chicago, Illinois, U.S.
Years active 1990–present
Labels Criss Cross, Concord, Verve, Sunnyside, ECM
Associated acts Red Rodney, Dave Holland, Dave Douglas, Paul Motian, Steely Dan, Scott Colley, Craig Taborn
Who is Chris Potter?
Chris Potter (born January 1, 1971) is an American jazz saxophonist, composer, and multi-instrumentalist. His main instrument is tenor sax, but he also performs on soprano and alto saxes, bass clarinet, flutes, guitar, and piano.
Potter came to prominence as a sideman with trumpeter Red Rodney, before stints with drummer Paul Motian, bassist Dave Holland, trumpeter Dave Douglas and others. He recorded his debut album in 1993 and according to critic Steve Huey, “quietly became one of the more sophisticated and respected stylists of the ’90s and early 2000s.”
Chris Potter Biography
Chris Potter was born in Chicago, Illinois, but his family soon moved to Columbia, South Carolina, where he spent his formative years. Potter showed an early interest in a wide variety of different music and easily learned several instruments including the guitar and piano. He quickly realized after hearing Paul Desmond that the saxophone would be the vehicle that would best allow him to express himself musically.
He played his first professional jazz gig on alto sax at age thirteen after mastering the complex musical language of Charlie Parker. He developed a devoted local following while performing with the Columbia jazz musicians Johnny Helms and Terry Rosen, as well as with others in the jazz community.
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. Upon his arrival in New York he began performing with Red Rodney and gained a reputation as a rising new star of the saxophone.
Chris Potter Recordings
Potter has released over 15 albums as a leader and performed as a sideman on more than 150 CDs with many leading musicians including Red Rodney, Pat Metheny, Marian McPartland, Patricia Barber, Kenny Werner, the Mingus Big Band, Paul Motian, Ray Brown, Jim Hall, James Moody, Dave Douglas, Joe Lovano, Wayne Krantz, Mike Mainieri, Steve Swallow, Steely Dan, Dave Holland, Joanne Brackeen, Adam Rogers and many more.
His 1998 CD Vertigo was named one of the year’s top ten jazz CDs by both Jazziz magazine and The New York Times. The album was inspired by a bout with Ménière’s disease that caused severe dizziness and damaged his hearing in one ear.
He was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Jazz Instrumental Solo for his work on the Joanne Brackeen recording Pink Elephant Magic. His 2004 CD Lift: Live At The Village Vanguard was named one of the year’s ten best new jazz recordings by Fred Kaplan of Slate.
His 2006 release, Underground, on which he records with an electric, more “groove”-based ensemble featuring Craig Taborn on keyboard; Wayne Krantz or Adam Rogers on guitar; and Nate Smith on drums, was followed closely by the 2007 release Follow the Red Line: Live at the Village Vanguard, featuring Adam Rogers on all six of its tracks. Another Underground group recording was released in 2009, Ultrahang.
Potter received widespread attention recently with a recording of his performance of “Lingus” with the band Snarky Puppy in Cheltenham, UK on April 30, 2017.
Chris Potter Recognition
Potter has appeared many times in the Down Beat Critic’s and Reader’s Polls, and received the top prize as ‘Rising Star’ for ‘Best Tenor Saxophonist’ in 2004, 2005, 2006 and 2007. He was recently honored as Tenor Saxophonist of the Year 2013 by the Jazz Journalists Association.
In the December, 2014 issue of Down Beat, which featured the results of the annual readers poll, Potter was named the number one tenor saxophonist in the world.
“Chris was in my composition class at the New School [for Jazz and Contemporary Music, NYC] for about a year. When he called me for a private lesson, I had no idea how he played. We started with a bebop tune; but he went further out on the second thing we played, and on the third tune he was playing in the language of my contemporaries, guys who grew up following all of Miles’ bands and aspiring to the kind of spiritual strivings that defined Coltrane’s music. By the fourth tune, I wanted to take a lesson from Chris.”
— Kenny Wheeler, Canadian composer, trumpet- and flugelhorn player
“He has a real special maturity all his own. He plays with a lot of trust and he really explores his dynamics within the music. He has beautiful rhythm and flowing ideas.
He’s real versatile and he has a strong presence in his tone and articulation and he can fit in a lot of settings because he’s very free rhythmically on his horn. That’s why you hear him with everyone from Steely Dan to Pat Metheny. He is definitely a disciple of Michael Brecker in a certain way, and he’s gone in a direction that has led to those gigs.”
— Joe Lovano, Jazz saxophonist, on Potter’s album The Sirens
“Potter is growing into one of the major saxophonists of today. He is an astonishingly confident and full-bodied player and shows prowess on any of his chosen horns, each of which he plays in a muscular post-bop manner that are full of surprising twists…”
— Richard Cook, Brian Morton, Penguin Guide to Jazz on CD, 6th Ed.
“A tenorist who can remind you of Joe Henderson at his craftiest, Potter employs his considerable technique in the service of the music rather than spectacle.”
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