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Chris Potter Circuits Trio and the Kenny Garrett Quintet at San Francisco Jazz Festival


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Chris Potter Circuits Trio and the Kenny Garrett Quintet
San Francisco Jazz Festival
San Francisco, CA
June 21, 2019

It is unusual to find a double bill featuring two accomplished and well known v players. So it was a memorable occasion when Chris Potter and Kenny Garrett played a date together with their ensembles at SFJAZZ as part of the San Francisco Jazz Festival.

Potter was born in Chicago but grew up in Columbia, South Carolina; he was inspired to study saxophone after listening to Paul Desmond and study he did! Following his mastery of Charlie Parker's complex fingering, he debuted on stage on alto saxophone at 13. A long list of awards, as well as accolades from musicians such as Kenny Wheeler and Joe Lovano, attest to his mastery of the instrument.

Garrett has played with the Duke Ellington Orchestra and with the late Miles Davis, among others, but has gained notoriety for his work as a solo artist. Since his first recording in 1990, the awards and accolades have steadily piled up.

Circuits took the stage first. Pianist James Francies sat on the left; Potter stood in the center; and Eric Harland, clad in shorts and white sneakers, sat on his drum kit to the rear. For "Hold It," Francies used his left hand on the piano while his right played the keyboards to his right, a technique he used throughout the show, to solo spiritedly. Potter employed sampling to supplement his horn.

Crimson and blue lighting, along with lovely flute led into "The Dreamer is the Dream." Harland provided percussive compliments to Francies; then Potter leapt back in with vibrant tenor to conclude.

Introduced by searing tenor, "Circuits" brought melodic saxophone underscored with mallets and then brushwork from Harland. Pianist Francies kept one hand on the acoustic piano and his other on the electric before moving to attend to the 88s with both hands. "See You at the Finish Line" completed the set, and a standing ovation from the audience followed.

Next up was Garrett and his group who began with the fast paced "Haynes Here." This featured deft alto work from Garrett, who turned his back to the audience to face the drum set as notes streamed out. Percussion master Rudy Bird added subtleties with sticks, chimes and shakers.

Pumping alto introduced the rapid-fire "Chasing The Wind" during which Garrett turned his back to the audience and danced. Drummer Samuel Laviso went to town on this one. "Backyard Groove" was followed by "Do Your Dance!" for which Garrett initiated audience handclapping. The lights came up the funky "Happy People" during which Garrett initiated nonsense-syllable call and response. Bass and piano took a backseat as Bird and Laviso came to the fore with a percussion jam followed by Garrett's return. The tune ended with a last percussive burst from Laviso.

The lights went up and a standing ovation brought the band back for "Wayne's Thang," a tribute to the groundbreaking saxophonist (and fellow Miles Davis alumni) Wayne Shorter which featured percussive interplay and more nonsense-phrase chanting with musicians successively leaving the stage until only Garrett and Laviso remained before Laviso threw up his sticks in the air before exiting, leaving only Garrett, alone on the stage, as he dynamically brought the tune to a close.

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