About a dozen years ago, Chris Potter released an album called Gratitude on Verve. Its premise was simple: youngish turk pays homage to his formative saxophone influences, track by track. "Eurydice," track 5, bore a dedication to Wayne Shorter. The sincerity of that gesture was entirely clear.
I'm bringing this up because of the convergence of a few things. I had a rather long Wayne Shorter piece in Arts & Leisure over the weekend; today marks the release of his new quartet album, Without a Net. Chris Potter also happens to have an excellent new album out, The Sirens, which we recently discussed: the Times has posted an edit of our conversation, centered on the album's literary inspiration.
And as you may have heard, the jazz internet has been all astir these last few days over a small feat of would-be iconoclasm, involving Shorter, an impulsive young musician and a vulgarity of Anglo-Saxon origin. (I'm not trying to be coy; I really don't know much more than that. The contretemps unfolded on Facebook, among musicians, and I still maintain blanket restrictions over whom I "friend." I'm working by secondhand hearsay.)
During my interview with Potter, I asked him about the millennial Shorter Quartet, which I thought may have had some influence on his current acoustic band. He shared his deep admiration, and to some extent his puzzlement — "I've seen the sheet music, but what you hear them actually doing is often pretty far afield from that" — and we moved on to other things. "Wayne is clearly no stranger to that idea of mythic space," he mused, alluding to matters of Homeric import.
Point being: you don't get to heroic stature as a jazz musician without establishing a genuine connection to your forbears. "Connection" may or may not connote influence; it certainly doesn't connote ignorance. Look at who's playing with Potter at the Village Vanguard this week — pianist Ethan Iverson, bassist Larry Grenadier, drummer Eric Harland — and you'll see three musicians with enormous knowledge of, and respect for, myriad strains of the tradition. It's not a hindrance.
To that end, I wanted to post two audio excerpts of my interview with Potter, aimed at the ear of the young jazz musician. To me these were fascinating exchanges, though a bit too "inside" for the general readership I wanted to reach in the Times. The first clip revolves around Potter's remembrance of Paul Motian, the master drummer and composer, and one of his earliest mentors on the bandstand. I don't recall ever reading Potter on this subject, which is obviously dear to his heart.
And the second clip, which picks up a thread in the first, has to do with Potter's conception of "technique," which I'm putting pointedly in quotes.
I'm hoping these comments inspire some folks out there, and perhaps humble some others. In the meanwhile, there's a lot of music to be absorbed, even if you wanted to restrict yourself to Shorter and Potter within the first six weeks of this year. Maybe at some point I'll post some audio of Shorter, too. You can get a little taste in last week's NYT Popcast, which also has a lively back-and-forth between Ben Ratliff and me.