Home » Jazz Articles » Chris Potter: Got The Keys To The Kingdom: Live At The Village Van...


Album Review

Chris Potter: Got The Keys To The Kingdom: Live At The Village Vanguard


Sign in to view read count
Chris Potter: Got The Keys To The Kingdom: Live At The Village Vanguard
The title references an old gospel song, but for Chris Potter the keys in question could be those to the Village Vanguard. This is the saxophonist's third live recording from jazz's most storied club, not counting those with Paul Motian. For musicians and fans alike, this is hallowed turf. But it's not just about playing at The Village Vanguard. Documenting those dates is key—a rite of passage, to judge by the dozens of revered jazz musicians who have made live albums there. The keys to the Village Vanguard—owning a sonic piece of its history—signifies a place in the pantheon of the greats.

Some of Potter's greatest influences, Sonny Rollins, John Coltrane, Coleman Hawkins, Joe Henderson, Joe Lovano—to name just a few—have all left live albums for posterity, recorded in a venue that was originally home to folk singers and comedians when Max Gordon opened its doors in 1935.

Unlike Potter's two previous live albums of mostly original material, this third chapter, recorded in February 2022, comprises only standards, albeit less travelled ones. Potter is joined by Scott Colley, Craig Taborn and Marcus Gilmore, a powerhouse quartet by any yardstick. Subconsciously or not, Potter seems to channel some of the aforementioned influences, with the language of bop, post-bop, blues and folk coloring his playing more overtly than it has for some time now on his ECM and more funk-fuelled recordings. This is Potter at his burning, straight-ahead best.

On the fourteen-minute "You Gotta Move," a brilliant reworking of Mississippi Fred McDowell's acoustic version of the old spiritual, Potter builds patiently towards thrilling release, his burrowing tenor lines harboring little quotations that feel like nods to Rollins and Coltrane. Taborn too, takes his time, progressing from a gently bluesy course to splashy tumult akin to Sun Ra or Don Pullen. Gilmore also unleashes a snorter of a solo. As these volcanoes erupt around him, Colley calmly ploughs a furrow between steady pulse and quietly insinuating ostinatos that provide deeply alluring contrast.

It would be easy to imagine Coltrane's classic quartet tearing through "Nozani Na," a traditional Afro-Brazilian tune popularized by Heitor Villa-Lobos. Potter's quartet uses the mantra-like motif as a springboard to freely improvised passages—Taborn edgy and percussively aggressive, Potter melodically centred and yearning. Colley and Potter duet for the first three minutes of Chico Buraque, Antonio Carlos Jobim and Vinicius de Moraes' beautifully melancholic "Ohla Maria," before piano and drums enter, treading lightly. Here, and on Billy Strayhorn's "Blood Count," the quartet reins in its fiercer improvisatory instincts, with Potter content instead to explore the emotional depths of such bittersweet poetry.

There are no brakes on Charlie Parker's "Klactoveedsedstene," with Potter leading by ferocious example over fast-walking bass and insistent ride cymbal, paving the way for Gilmore's equally incendiary response. A consistently engaging set concludes with the title track, whose gospel-blues origins bookend fiery soloing, with Gilmore taking the final bow in thrilling fashion, over Potter's vamp, before an exclamative collective salute.

Potter has long-qualified as a jazz great, one of the preeminent modern-day saxophonists, and one who holds the key between past and present. Got The Keys To The Kingdom provides impassioned confirmation of that.

Track Listing

You Gotta Move; Nozani Na; Blood Count; Klactoveedsedstene; Olha Maria; Got The Keys To The Kingdom.


Chris Potter: saxophone; Scott Colley: bass; Craig Taborn: piano; Marcus Gilmore: drums.

Album information

Title: Got The Keys To The Kingdom: Live At The Village Vanguard | Year Released: 2023 | Record Label: Edition Records

Post a comment about this album

Get the Jazz Near You newsletter All About Jazz has been a pillar of jazz since 1995, championing it as an art form and, more importantly, supporting the musicians who create it. Our enduring commitment has made "AAJ" one of the most culturally important websites of its kind, read by hundreds of thousands of fans, musicians and industry figures every month.

To expand our coverage even further and develop new means to foster jazz discovery and connectivity we need your help. You can become a sustaining member for a modest $20 and in return, we'll immediately hide those pesky ads plus provide access to future articles for a full year. This winning combination will vastly improve your AAJ experience and allow us to vigorously build on the pioneering work we first started in 1995. So enjoy an ad-free AAJ experience and help us remain a positive beacon for jazz by making a donation today.




Get more of a good thing!

Our weekly newsletter highlights our top stories, our special offers, and upcoming jazz events near you.