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This Will be: Chris Potter at Lyric, Tonight!

Jazz saxophonist Chris Potter burst onto the New York scene in 1989 as an 18-year-old prodigy with bebop icon Red Rodney; the Chicago-born saxophonist then became the youngest musician ever to win Denmark’s Jazzpar Prize. His discography now includes 16 albums as a leader and sideman appearances on over 100 more. He has also performed or recorded with such leading jazz figures as Herbie Hancock, Pat Metheny, Jim Hall, Paul Motian, Ray Brown, John Scofield and Dave Douglas, as well as with the Mingus Big Band.

Potter takes the stage at Lexington’s Lyric Theater at 7 pm tonight. Lexington architect and jazz artist Clive Pohl talked music with Potter. Here’s part three of their conversation. 

(Part one | Part two

Clive: Your record This Will Be was the result of having won the Jazzpar Prize in Copenhagen and it’s a live recording is it not? 

Chris: Yes.

Clive: And so, I’m curious: what did that feel like as a young musician? You were not yet 30 years old and you won a very prestigious international prize. That must have been incredibly exciting. 

Chris: Yeah. Well, I thought that helped in terms of visibility for me, you know, especially in Europe, but it also served to give me a little more confidence that, “okay, maybe I can do this, I can actually go on the road as a leader and present my music.” It’s a whole different thing. Prior to that, I’d been doing my own records, but hardly ever performing live with my own group, you know, and there’s a whole thing about leading a band that involves the skills you need as a sideman but also other skills. Choosing what to play and when, choosing how to decide who you’re going to ask to be in the band. Just a million little things. 

Clive: It’s not unlike being an architect wherein you have to get the foundation in place in order to get the building out of the ground with the help of many others who, on some level, have to buy into your vision.

Chris: Right. It’s one thing to have the best vision of what could be made in your head, but then when you have to deal with reality; “okay, well, who is available, and what materials are available, and how much money can we actually spend?” And if you’re not able to negotiate those things, then the thing that actually comes into reality isn’t gonna be on the same level. So, that’s been a journey and a turning point for me; learning how to be a bandleader.

Clive: Am I correct in assuming that with respect to your compositions the ante might have been raised a little bit with the Jazzpar suite?

Chris: Yeah. I don’t remember that I had written for a large, or even medium-sized ensemble up to that point. That might have been one of my first real stabs at that. I think I did some things in school for big band or various ensembles but that helped to lead into a fascination with writing for larger groups and seeing how I can flesh out the ideas that I have compositionally for the bigger palette of a larger ensemble.

Clive: A quick question or two about your compositional development. When you’re writing a piece like, for example, Chief Seattle, (Song for Anyone, 2007) it is an absolutely beautiful piece,  and one that jumped out at me having lived in Seattle for many years. When you choose a name like that; which comes first, the music or the name?

Chris: It depends on the situation. I think that name did come later. I had just read a book with some quotes and a beautiful speech about taking care of the earth. There’s a certain energy about that piece that reminded me of someone who is in charge, and someone that does have a vision of how to lead. I found that feeling in the piece and I think that led me to the name.

Clive: Do you have a spiritual practice, a meditation practice, or a specific time of day that you compose? It’s hard for me to imagine how you find time, given how full your schedule is.  

Chris: I don’t exactly have any one practice that I use. I’ve read about different meditation strategies but really can’t say that I follow one thing with regularity. To a certain extent, the saxophone helps with that in that when I’m working on music, when I’m working on sound, by playing long notes and just focusing on breathing, there’s a kind of saxophone “yoga” I get into, and the music itself can help with some of those things. Music can’t do it by itself – life has to come before the music or there’s not going to be anything worth listening to! But it is helpful to approach music from a bit of a sacred point of view. 

Clive: Well, certainly, playing saxophone is a different experience from playing the guitar in that it involves the breath and anyone can hear that… Paul Desmond’s playing is clearly connected to his breath and inner being.

Chris: Yeah, that’s a nice thing that it has in common with the voice. It is really a complete connection to breath. It’s a serious limitation that you can only play one note at a time, but you can do so much with every note because of the expressiveness you can get from each breath. So, being able to control the breath and really think about what that means on a deep level — it does lead into a meditative state when you’re in it. As far as the time of day that I write, I’m usually grabbing whatever time I can. For that particular record I recall that I came up with the basic framework at home in terms of tunes and the basic structure, but I think I wrote and fleshed it out with the orchestration while on the road. It’s been a great big help to a lot of us as composers that you can write on a computer and save your work and then edit later. It’s very useful to be able to travel and work on things. It’s not ideal, but, in the life of a working musician there’s seldom a chance to say “okay, I’m gonna take 3 months off and do this”. I hope to have that experience in my life but so far, it’s not lining up that way (laughs). 

Clive: Right. I have one last question for you, Chris. It may be a difficult question for you to answer, but I’m curious to hear how you might muse upon it. You’ strike me as someone who is clearly talented from early on and clearly disciplined and committed to the music. So, the question of nature versus nurture, where do you stand with that? What percentage of your makeup is natural talent versus just raw hard work? 

Chris: That is something I’ve thought about. I mean, being naturally gifted at something is obviously a big head start, and I think a big part of the head start is that, if it’s rewarding to do it, immediately if you say like “oh okay, I get this”, then you’re gonna want to do it more and you’re gonna devote more energy to it. So, it’s a cycle that reinforces itself. It’s definitely easier for some people to grab certain things I’ve seen and harder for others, you know. It definitely helps to just be able to understand things quickly. I mean, not in every case, but that was something that manifested itself fairly early with what I was doing. On the other side, I feel like I’ve known many extremely talented people that never found a way to live up to what they were probably able to do. I’m a firm believer that while raw talent helps, it doesn’t even get you halfway there. There really has to be a lot of time spent, and a lot of commitment to it.

Clive: I suspect too that on some core level, you understood as a teenager that you had to get up to New York and that commitment to that place helped to fuel your forward motion.

Chris: Oh yeah. I mean, it was great to get kicked in the pants! I mean, there wasn’t anyone my age in South Carolina that I knew who was playing at all. So, I was this big fish in a small pound. So, coming to New York and meeting all these other amazing musicians and being exposed to all this stuff that I really just hadn’t heard was a huge catalyst for growth and remains that way and that’s why I’m still here. 

Clive: Yeah. There is a decidedly competitive streak between musicians, no doubt about it.

Chris: Yeah. Yeah. In a mostly positive way.

Clive: Sometimes delivered with love and sometimes not. 

Chris: Yeah. Maybe sometimes not, but usually with, you know – if there is respect!

Clive: That’s right. That’s right. Well, on that note of love and respect, I  want to thank you and I look forward to hearing you on April 22nd. I’ll come up and say hello if that’s OK…

Chris: Thank you! I’m looking forward to it! 

Newsletter

Daniel Ludwig Presented by The Heike Pickett Gallery

The Heike Pickett Gallery is presenting a retrospective of works by Daniel Ludwig in three locations this spring.

An UnderMain review of these exhibitions is forthcoming, but in the meantime, check out the artwork in person at the following locations.

Daniel Ludwig, “After Image”, 2017, Oil on Linen, 60 x 40 inches

DANIEL LUDWIG: New Works 2016-2018

April 21-June 8

Heike Pickett Gallery & Sculpture Garden

110 Morgan Street

Versailles, KY 40383

Daniel Ludwig, “Woman with Ochre Shade”, 2005, Oil on Linen, 50 x 40 inches

DANIEL LUDWIG:  Paintings and Drawings

April 15-June 8, Gallery Hop May 18th 5 – 8 p.m.

Heike Pickett Gallery at CMW

400 E. Vine St.

Lexington, KY 40507

 

Daniel Ludwig, “Another Season II”, 1996, Oil on Linen, 70 x 54 inches, Private Collection

DANIEL LUDWIG:  RETROSPECTIVE

Thirty-five Years of Artworks in Kentucky Area Collections  

April 22-May 25, Reception April 22nd  5 – 7 p.m.

Anne Wright Wilson Gallery at Georgetown College

Corner of E. College St. and Mulberry

Georgetown, KY 40324

For further information:

www.heikepickettgallery.com

phone: 859-233-1263

email: info@heikepickettgallery.com

Newsletter

Just Can’t Get Enough: Leonard Cohen Tribute II

The world of audiophiles and lyric lovers mourned greatly on November 7, 2016, the day Leonard Cohen died. Leaving behind a legacy of songs known and loved by millions, Cohen left a gap in the world of beauty with his passing. Out of a desire to emulate the gift that he was and share it with her community, Anita Courtney felt a strong pull to put on a tribute show for Cohen.

She did. It was a huge success. And now, she’s preparing for an April 28th redux. More on that in a moment.

“Well, he was ready to go, and he left us so much,” Courtney recalls saying to her daughters when they told her the sad news back in November, ’16. Her first thought was to organize a tribute. The idea was shared with others, namely Lynn Motley, Diane Arnson Svarlien and Marlon Hurst, and together they planned the first Leonard Cohen tribute. On November 11th of last year, the concert took place at Good Shepherd Episcopal Church as part of the First Presbyterian Church Music for Mission series.

Adam Luckey and Sherry Sebastian of the Sherry Sebastian trio. | Photo credit: Kopana Terry

“It went beyond our vision…” Courtney states about the first sell-out tribute show. Choosing a variety of musical styles that would emulate Cohen’s catalog with creative diversity, the lineup of local talent was a broad representation of some of the area’s finest musicians. Twelve acts performed that night, each performing one or two songs from Cohen’s lifelong supply of songs and poetry.

Beyond a program that featured everything from a psychedelic/blues rendition of “You Want it Darker” performed by Doc Feldman and Art Shechet, to a jazzy, seductive version of “Everybody Knows” by Paper Moon Jazz Trio, the greatest beauty of that night was the creative variety the artists put into their songs. The evening ended with a rousing sing-along to Cohen’s most mainstream song “Hallelujah” with artists taking turns with verses. The entire crowd joined in, and Cohen’s words rose to the heavens from that church.

Carlotta Abbott was a member of that first crowd. “I had no idea we had this kind of talent in Lexington,” she kept whispering to her friend between each set. “Each performer, I was covered in goosebumps, it just went on and on throughout the evening.” 

Thrilled by the talent that stood before her all night long, Abbott was one of the folks who helped encourage Courtney to have an encore. The talent was spectacular, but the feeling of community and coming together was something she took away from the evening. “The group sing-along, it was a coming together, a unifying experience, it felt wonderful…”

The Four Leonards performing Cohen’s “My Oh My” at the first concert

When the evening was complete, Anita Courtney rested on her laurels and knew that beauty could never be recreated. The night was a total success. Mission beautifully accomplished. But…the phone kept ringing. The emails kept coming. People were insisting that it be done again. “People were using words like ‘I was devastated I couldn’t get in’ or ‘I was heartbroken I missed it’.” The demands were sending a clear message: this tribute had to be done again.

So, Halleluja! Leonard Cohen Tribute Encore is coming!

Sponsored by UnderMain, the 7 pm, April 28th concert is being staged this time at The Lyric Theater. With only a few exceptions due to schedule conflicts, the artists of the original performance will return. This time with more space available, the $15.00 tickets will guarantee a great seat in a historic theater that offers amazing acoustics, and Cohen will be praised once more.

“The Lyric has heft and history, and a solidarity with the themes Cohen sings about. The Lyric has soul, and Cohen has soul,” Marilyn Robie commented, one of the performers that night who will be singing “Dance Me to the End of Love” and “The Land of Plenty” with her group Navi’im.  

Nevi’im – Tom Green, Marilyn Robie, Kim Berryman-Smith, Margie Karp, Benjamin Karp—performing at the first Leonard Cohen Tribute | Photo credit: Kopana Terry

For those of us who are avid disciples of Cohen’s music and poetry, his words will resonate in a timeless manner, and we are grateful to be able to gather together to celebrate his diverse collection. Many people relate to Cohen’s “pan-spiritualism” and his lifelong struggle to find the truth, despite religious boundaries.

“…he sought truth, his songwritings were investigations. When he found something that was true he polished it to be able to say it well,” says Courtney. Quoting Cohen she added, “When you’re moved by someone’s music it means they were unable to hide themselves.”

Leonard Cohen didn’t hide from his fans and colleagues. He gave all of himself, as a sellout crowd at Louisville’s Palace Theater discovered when on the very doorstep of his 80th year, Cohen gave them not one, not two, not three, but four very generous encores.

This creative generosity can be heard in his last album “You Want it Darker,” released October, 16, 3 weeks before his death. This truth is what calls so many musicians to want to emulate Cohen, to give him homage for mastering the craft. All who will take the stage on the 28th for the second time are grateful for the opportunity. And those who filled the seats will do so again – joined, it is hoped, by the many who regret missing the original tribute concert, all happy for that chance to experience community around the poetry and music of the great Leonard Cohen.

To purchase tickets, please visit lexingtonlyric.tix.com

Newsletter

Arts Tasting Menu

A tasting of handcut cultural delicacies from Lexington and the region.

 It’s a one-and-done tasting menu! One-off events that you really should not miss.

Appetizer

R.C. May Photography Lecture: KAREN IRVINE, Friday, April 13, Singletary Center Recital Hall

The Chief Curator and Deputy Director of the Museum of Contemporary Photography at Columbia College Chicago, speaks on her approach to uncovering and supporting the work of emerging and mid-career photographers. The R.C. May photography lecture series is an outstanding program of eminent visiting speakers addressing all aspects of photography.

Entree

KMAC Couture, KMAC Museum, Saturday, April 14

KMAC Couture is a wearable art runway show presented by KMAC Museum on the second Saturday in April. The event features and supports emerging and established artists, costumers, designers, and milliners and the extraordinary presentation of original couture pieces of wearable art and conceptual fashion designs. KMAC is uniquely positioned to offer this kind of event, which begins with sketch and design proposals, through the completion of the designs which highlight the use of innovative technique, design and materials.

Dessert

Conversations with Photographers (2014), Directed by Ann Segal. Thursday, April 12, 7:30PM. The Mini Microcinema, Cincinnati.

This one-hour documentary by Cincinnati photographer and filmamker, Ann Segal, explores the work, lives, and careers of six Cincinnati photographers. The Mini Microcinema is a Cincinnati non-profit that shows experimental film/video/media, highlighting work made by artists and filmmakers outside of the mainstream. All film screenings are free.

Ann Segal by Helen Adams