Chris Potter at Ronnie Scotts - Review
On Wednesday, 14th March, an expectant crowd gathered outside Londons legendary Ronnie Scotts jazz club, to witness a rare UK appearance of one of jazz’ greatest modern exponents – none other than Chris Potter and his highly-acclaimed Underground group.
Whereas Potters recent recorded work seems to draw heavily on classical and world music, the Underground celebrates his love for fusion, with easily digestible melodic sketches and sprawling jams over sometimes intricate vamps.
The crowd were let in to the club, and were first treated to a support slot from up-and-coming Trio HLK. The groups technical ability was marvellous, but their “renditions” of jazz standards seemed somewhat arbitrary, as all they did was play 4 or 5 notes of the original melody, before gratuitously noodling over a breakbeat in an indecipherable time signature. There was a definite sense of bemusement in the audience after their set was over.
Nevertheless, when the Underground took the stage, the audience were ready to experience what this ensemble had to say. It is worth mentioning that this tour featured a slightly different lineup of bassist Fima Ephron and drummer Dan Weiss (as opposed to the usual team of Rhodes man Craig Taborn and Nate Smith). Both men have still played with Potter in various settings for years though, and fit seamlessly into the band.
They began with one of the bands most recognisable tunes, Train – immediately the audience were on their side, and as main soloists Potter and Adam Rogers stretched out over the contrasting solo sections, the intensity and excitement only grew.
Not that this set was without ebb and flow: one of the most memorable numbers was a cover of a Joni Mitchell tune, Ladies of the Canyon, in which potter opened with a spacious solo flute cadenza, before employing his small collection of pedals to create an introductory loop with which all the band eventually joined in.
Another personal highlight was the bands performance of of one of my personal favourite tracks, Pop Tune No. 1, a simmering 6/8 ballad with Rogers at his most simultaneously angular and lyrical, playing just the right notes at just the right time. Then Potter takes over for another solo interlude, before the band comes back in with a shameless pop-rock groove that takes the atmosphere of the room to stratospheric heights.
All in all a stellar set played by world-class players – the crowd came for the Underground, and the band delivered, and then some.