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In the current climate we are doing our best to keep everyone up to date. All gigs, as we all know, are off.

However, good old YouTube has plenty to offer both old and new to help us survive whilst housebound. Plus now is a good time to stock up on your CDs.

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Today

As we all know there are no live gigs taking place in the immediate future. However, any links to jazz streaming that are deemed suitable - i.e. with a professional approach - will be considered for posting.

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Kenny Garrett Quintet & Chris Potter Trio @ San Francisco Jazz Center- June 21

Kenny Garrett Quintet: Garrett (alto sax/flute); Vernell Brown (piano); Corcoran Holt (bass); Samuel Laviso (drums); Rudy Bird (percussion).
(Review by Dave Clarke/photo courtesy of Pam)

Prior to attending this late-June San Francisco Jazz Festival concert I had never seen either Kenny Garrett or Chris Potter in live performance and nor was I familiar with their recordings. If I hadn’t read an interview with Potter in the March issue of Jazzwise magazine my ignorance would have probably led me to think that they were an odd mix for a double bill: Garrett, with a tendency towards the funky, and Potter, a critically acclaimed ECM recording artist.

My initial reaction to leader Garrett’s shiny suit and the band’s high energy soul-jazz was “Lance, you should have sent Steve T on this gig!.”    
By the second tune though, with Garrett and Laviso embroiled in an intense and seemingly endless duo, I was glad to be there and just sorry for Steve that this time I’d got the holiday in California. The duo turned into a solo for the leader played, like the majority of the gig, with his back to the audience. Which didn’t mean we had nothing to look at. Far from it. Both Laviso at the kit and Bird the percussionist were well worth watching and the whole band were hugely impressive musicians.

At about this point Kenny Garrett’s solo had come to seem as though it was endless and I had a sudden flashback to how I first became aware of San Francisco and of America’s “alternative” culture: i.e. through the ‘50s novels of Jack Kerouac in which black jazz musicians blew endless bop choruses in underground clubs. Not, I’m sure, what Kenny Garrett had in mind but in fact he splendidly covered many stylistic bases in the concert including, in his encore, the contemporary jazz of Wayne Shorter through Wayne’s Thing. The whole band switched style immaculately.

The point where they lost me – just call me an old fart – was, in the last couple of tunes, when Garrett began urging the audience to clap and chant together. The point where jazz meets showbiz you might call it. Call and response are fine if both parties are on something like the same rhythmic level. Otherwise, leave it to the band I say.  
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Chris Potter Trio: Chris Potter (tenor sax/flute/electronics); James Francies (piano); Eric Harland (drums).

Potter had the opening slot although, status-wise, he was no ‘second-banana’.

In the Jazzwise interview, tenor star Potter reminded or informed us that the funk aesthetic had always been important to him but had been abandoned for a number of years. The trio onstage in San Francisco was brought together as an experiment for the tenorist to get back to groove-based music and the chemistry worked. The leader wrote music for the band, they recorded an album (Circuits) and took the music out on tour in the States. The UK is not so lucky. Only Southampton will be getting the Circuits Trio – in November – before they head off into Europe.

The trio had time to play five tunes, all but one from their Circuits album and all, I believe, compositions by Chris Potter with whom I was enormously impressed. Most tunes began with an extensive solo by the leader featuring his highly percussive yet melodic style and his use of the whole range of his instrument.  His solo introduction over, he switched up the electronics as Eric Harland and James Francies entered the fray. Harland is a phenomenal drummer who, like Potter, operates on the whole range of his instrument – all the drums, all the cymbals, all of the time. Except on the introduction to one tune for which he played one, hand-held cymbal, Chris Potter played flute and the excellent James Francies abandoned his two keyboards in favour of the venue’s grand.  

In closing, a few words about the venue and its organiser.  The San Francisco Jazz Center is the largest non-profit presenter of jazz in the United States. Founded in 1982 by Randall Kline, as was their Jazz Festival, in 2013 they opened their custom–built venue which has a steeply raked 700 seat auditorium, useable for all-seated and for dance events and a 150 seat studio venue. The festival consists of 40 shows in 13 days and in the rest of the year around 700 shows are presented.      
                                                                                                                                        
In 2004 they established the SF Jazz Collective, a leaderless composer’s workshop of 8 musicians which tours and records. Members have included Joe Lovano, Bobby Hutcherson, Dave Douglas, Joshua Redman and others.

Every two years a small group of musicians are chosen to each develop a new work for performance at the Center. Known as Resident Artistic Directors they have included Bill Frisell, Jason Moran, Christian McBride and Vijay Iyer.  The Jazz Center also runs a large music education programme in jazz appreciation, creation and performance, both in-house and throughout the Bay Area.
Dave Clarke

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