Saxophonist and composer Chris Potter is in the final stages of finishing a new album called Ultrahang, produced in a unique fashion through the ArtistShare label. He has graciously agreed to answer a few questions for this blog. Thanks a lot to Chris for taking the time, to Matt Merewitz for setting this up and to Brian Patneaude for helping with questions.
M&M: How do you approach composing for this particular ensemble?
CP: I try to keep in mind the textural possibilities of the instrumentation and the individual personalities of the guys in the band. There are things that might work for a more conventional group that don't work as well for this situation , but on the other hand, there are directions this band can go that a more traditional band can't. It forces me to write in a specific way, emphasizing aspects like groove and texture over formal complexity, for example.
M&M: Do you find that you approach improvisation with this instrumentation differently than you would with a traditional quartet consisting of piano/guitar, bass and drums?
CP: Yes, I think I do play a little differently with this band. Some of that is a result of the instrumentation, it's louder than a traditional acoustic jazz group, and certain frequencies in the saxophone speak differently in this context (it's also much different than if there were an electric bass player, it's a little lighter and more spacious than that usually is). Most importantly, the content of the music is different than other groups I've worked with, so of course that brings out different aspects of my musical personality. It's been a great challenge for me to figure out how to make it work , since it feels a little like uncharted territory.
M&M: Why did you choose to go with ArtistShare for this project?
CP:It's no secret that the music business is changing rapidly. There are many negative sides to it, but one positive side from my perspective is, with a system like Artistshare, artists can now have more direct control over their work, not have to give up the rights to their own music, and see more of the profit. It's a bit scarier because the initial investment is higher, but for me the things that traditional record companies are willing to offer in terms of promotion and support are not worth giving up that freedom and control over my work.
M&M: How do you compose - at the piano, at the sax, a combination of both?
CP: Often at the piano, sometimes on the horn, sometimes a combination of both, sometimes neither. The other day I had an experience that was a little inconvenient- I found I had an entire new tune in my head, but we had just arrived at the airport, so I had to try and write it down before I forgot it, while at the same time checking in and going through security!
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