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Interviews

Chris Potter: Way Above Ground with Underground

By Published: June 29, 2009
"It makes me explore a certain area of my personality, something different for me. I think it's that way with all the members of the group. No one knew what to expect," says Potter. "How is it going to work, playing funk without a bassist? It's only because of the way everybody approaches the music [that it works]. From the Rhodes chair, nobody really does what Craig does. He's able to hook the music up from that point of view. He's able to hold down the bass and solo up on top, or do whatever. Everyone's very conscious of how to make that texture work, with the possible limitations that is has because there is no bass.



"Adam will set up certain kind of ostinato patterns, to anchor it. Nate definitely has a way of making it work, really hooking up with whatever is going on in a deep way. It never feels like [the bass] is missing for me. It's different."



Also a bit different for Underground is the fact that it is an all-studio recording. That, too, was done for a solid reason.



"I felt like there is already a lot of live stuff out there," Potter said. "I'm hoping to release some recordings of some concerts that we've done. So there won't be any shortage of extended versions of these tunes. But I wanted to present a more concise version [of these tunes]. Because sometimes that's what you want to hear at home. The 30-minute version may be amazing live, but it might not be what you want to hear at home. Also, the sound we were able to get in the studio, there's no way to get that kind of quality live. I was extremely happy with the results. I wasn't sure how the tunes would translate into shorter versions. They're not short, but they're considerably shorter than what we'd do live.

"I was wondering if we'd be able to get the same energy level. It's always harder in the studio. But I think we did as well as we could and achieved what I was hoping to get."



It is Potter's first ArtistShare experience, in which financial support comes from the public, who get access to the process along the way and a unique insider's look as a recording is developed. Those that donate larger sums get more benefits along the way. The recordings are only sold online, but the process is having success and many musicians are finding it a good business process. It also allows total creative freedom, which hasn't been available for many musicians in what used to be the traditional—now fast-fading—recording process.

Potter is pleased with the process and made some discoveries along the way.

"It was a situation where the record label I had been recording with [Sunnyside Records], the whole division ended up evaporating from under us about a month or two before we were going to go into the studio," he says. "I wanted to record the music anyway. Instead of signing some other deal with a label that wasn't really favorable to me on a lot of levels, it seemed to make a lot more sense to make the jump and see what something new had to offer.

CHRIS POTTER l:r Dave Holland, Robin Eubanks, Chris Potter



"My concern was that it wouldn't reach the same number of people. At the end of the day, what I'm hoping to do is get the word out so that the most people will know about [the music] and be able to check it out. So far, it seems my worries were unfounded. There's a whole world of music seekers on the Internet. More than I realized, since I don't use it that much, personally, other than to buy things on iTunes. I'm not out there exploring what bootlegs are available, blogs and all this kind of stuff. There's a whole world of stuff I'm just realizing is out there that's as useful, or more useful sometimes, than the usual channels for getting the word out. Especially among the young people. This band seems to appeal to a younger audience, which is a nice feeling also."



He says he's been fortunate enough in his career to not fall under a great deal of creativity-versus-commercial pressures. But, "this is a whole different feeling when you actually own your music. The records I made before that, once I make it and it's out there, then it's actually not my property, which is actually a strange idea. This is the first one I actually own."



Potter says Underground is doing well and going on a big tour this year. It's a break from his long tenure with Holland, but he's still connected with the great leader and bassist.



"We just finished a tour in Europe for a few weeks," he says of his association with Holland, where he worked with the group consisting of drummer Eric Harland

Eric Harland
Eric Harland
b.1976
drums
and pianist Gonzalo Rubalcaba
Gonzalo Rubalcaba
Gonzalo Rubalcaba
b.1963
piano
.



Notes Potter, "I end up working with Dave whether or not his band is working. We were on the road a lot last year with Herbie Hancock. I've been working with [Holland] for maybe 10 or 11 years now. It's great.



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