Supported by NICA artist development, a program funded by
I first heard Chris Potter’s music sometime in my teenage years. I immediately became a fan, trying to get all his records as a leader and as a sideman. There’s always something to learn from Chris’ playing… in a way I always feel encouraged to work on something after I’ve listened to him. Especially his records “Gratitude”, “Lift: Live at the Village Vanguard”, “Traveling Mercies”, “Unspoken” and “Presenting Chris Potter” were deep sources of inspiration for me. Moreover I loved his playing on records of Dave Holland, Paul Motian, Steve Swallow, Kenny Wheeler, Alex Sipiagin, Adam Rogers, Antonio Farao, Scott Colley, Billy Drummond, John Patitucci (oh yes – “Now” was a big one for me!) and on lots of bootlegs as well. I heard Chris live very often, but a particularly amazing concert I saw was John Scofield‘s quartet with Chris, Dennis Irwin and Bill Stewart at the Stadtgarten in Cologne. I’ll always remember this!
In 2013 I’ve had the great fortune of playing with Chris Potter on a short tour as a featured guest of my trio and later on in 2016 I went on tour through Europe with his own quartet. I had been following his music closely, so getting to play with him was not only a dream come true but also a deep learning experience for me, to say the least!
Now, I’m really happy I got to include Chris in this series of interviews. We talk about his impeccable ear-brain-instrument connection, composing, leading a band, working with Paul Motian, Dave Holland and Herbie Hancock, how to overcome periods of self-doubt and much more.
As I tell Jeff Ballard in the beginning of our conversation, every time I hear him I’m amazed by the lively sound and feel he gets out of the drums. I think that’s something we as musicians all strive for: to have our sounds (and the music in general) be reflective of life itself, to transcend the notes, the rhythms, the general parameters of the music and make others (and ourselves) feel something and connect with each other.
It was a big pleasure for me to connect with Jeff during our talk. Right from the start it felt like I had known him forever! He was really ready to share his experiences in a candid and honest way. We touched on many subjects, including his time feel, drastically changing his physical approach to playing the drums, his experience of playing with Chick Corea, books, his relationship with Larry Grenadier, what he’s looking for in a bassist, his admiration for Donald Bailey and much more.