Guitarist Frank Potenza, who was a member of the Gene Harris Quartet from 1996 until the pianist’s untimely death in 2000, has dedicated his second album on Azica Records to his late friend and former employer. Not surprisingly, Potenza’s group sounds much like Harris’s, with pianist Larry Fuller adopting Gene’s crisp, percussive style and swinging almost as aggressively as his role model on every number. The “Harris connection” is further reinforced by bassist Luther Hughes, a member of Gene’s various ensembles for more than thirty years, and Paul Kreibich who worked with Harris for five years and was the last drummer in Gene’s quartet.
Potenza, who has been playing guitar since he was a thirteen-year-old in Providence, RI, met guitarist Joe Pass in the mid-’70s and the two became close friends. Pass looked on Potenza as a protégé, and his influence is easy to discern in Potenza’s smooth, expressive lines and meticulous technique. Like Pass, he’s more scholar than showman, espousing a studious approach that complements perfectly Fuller’s more gregarious statements and robust chordal counterpoint. Potenza and Fuller bring out the best in every song while Hughes and Kreibich calmly take care of business, giving the front-liners a strong and unwavering bedrock on which to improvise.
As for the music, it is top-drawer as well, with four memorable tunes from the Great American Songbook and Antonio Carlos Jobim’s Latin standard “Wave” strewn among handsome compositions by Hank Mobley (“Funk in Deep Freeze”), Dexter Gordon (“Fried Bananas”), Jerome Richardson (“Groove Merchant”), Victor Feldman (“Rio”) and Potenza’s :bubbly “Blues for Frank E.,” dedicated to his father who passed away in September ‘02.
Those who admired Gene Harris will no doubt appreciate this warmhearted homage, while everyone else can simply take pleasure in listening to a talented group of Jazz musicians who play with emotion, swing hard and are consistently resourceful.
Personnel: Frank Potenza, guitar; Larry Fuller, piano; Luther Hughes, bass; Paul Kreibich, drums, percussion.