TO Jazz Review: Chris Potter’s Underground, The Pilot, June 30

Chris Potter & Nate Smith at The Pilot

TorontoChris Potter’s Underground played The Pilot last night. He was accompanied by drummer Nate Smith, pianist Craig Taborn, and guitarist Adam Rogers. Chris Potter is new blood in the jazz world and updates things by creating a funk fusion that, while incorporating straight-up rock beats, is still firmly grounded in the traditions of jazz.

[The Pilot has] all the pre-requisites for being a great jazz club: it’s small & packed, it’s intimate, the room is awkardly weird and long, and it sounds great.

Before I go into more detail about the show, I’d like to take a moment to describe The Pilot. Located on Cumberland street in the heart of Yorkville, this was surprisingly my very first show at The Pilot. Not surprisingly, the place follows an aviation theme. It’s got all the pre-requisites for being a great jazz club: it’s small & packed, it’s intimate, the room is awkardly weird and long, and it sounds great. I think the biggest drawback of the Pilot is that it’s smack dab in Yorkville. I ordered a rusty nail, a blend of scotch and Drambuie and was charged $17 for the honour.

Honestly folks, it’s not going to break my bank to buy a $17 + tip drink, but the very thought of it made me cringe. I’ve been living in this city for over a decade and by now consider myself a Torontonian. That being said, there’s never been another moment in recent memory where the sad display of big-city conspicuous consumption has made me want to pack up my things. Aside: Conspicuous Consumption is a book written by social scientist Thorstein Veblen over 100 years ago that neatly explains why we humans will gladly pay for a $17 drink because we happen to be in Yorkville.

A lot of modern jazz really loves the rock beat. [They’ll incorporate traditional beats and roam free] but there is something to be said about when the drummer finally gets back to belting out a straight-ahead rock beat. It makes for one helluva groove.

Anyway, let’s get to Chris Potter’s Underground. This band has been playing in its current format for about 5 years now, which is like 10 years in the jazz world. The first time I saw them was at the now defunct Top of the Senator club in 2004. When I asked them about that show, they recalled that it was one of the first shows they played in Toronto as a band. They’ve been spending their time since then honing their skills and their craft.

Keeping the time was Nate Smith, who readily lets loose with the rock beats and can drip funk. Interestingly enough, a lot of modern jazz really loves the rock beat. They fuse it with more traditional jazz beats and then roam free. But there is something to be said when the drummer finally gets back to belting out a straight-ahead rock beat; especially when a master soloist like Chris Potter is riding the wave. It makes for one helluva groove.

Chris Potter is a virtuoso of a sax player, but he just doesn’t play fast because he can, as is evident during the more atmospheric songs that this band will concoct. The quartet is about to start a European tour for the summer. When I asked Chris if there were any particular European clubs that he was looking forward to playing, he replied that it’s really more about the people than the place. If the crowd is into it, it makes his job that much easier. Like all musicians, Chris and his band feed off the energy of the crowd. Thankfully for everyone, the crowd was digging it last night. We’re happy to help out any way we can.

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Posted on by Mark in Everything, Toronto Jazz Festival

7 Responses to TO Jazz Review: Chris Potter’s Underground, The Pilot, June 30

  1. Brian

    You paid $17 for ONE DRINK? Holy crap. I work in Yorkville and I knew the prices were ridiculous (even the street meat vendors charge an extra quarter) but that’s got to be some kind of record.

  2. Allison

    I’ve got two words for you Mark: hip flask. I have a big one that could probably fit a mickey and a keyring one that could probably fit a shot.

  3. Mark

    Yes, a flask is a must next time. But you can’t fit ice in a flask, and I like my scotch on the rocks.

  4. Allison

    Mark, Mark, Mark. Any reputable establishment will give you mixer with ice for free to promote designated driving. Club soda with ice please, I’m the DD…order at the bar. Voila! Discreetly pour hip flask into tumbler under the table after you walk back to your group. Hopefully at this point the bartender is out of sight. Of course, if you are caught you will be humiliated and kicked out but I have faith in your discretion.

  5. Pingback: TO Jazz Review: Dave Holland Quintet, July 3, Nathan Phillips Square | The Panic Manual

  6. Pingback: TO Jazz Review: Branford Marsalis, Nathan Phillips, July 3 | The Panic Manual

  7. clay

    Chris is streaming live recordings of underground here. I got the link from his twitter. You just enter your email and can listen for free.
    http://bit.ly/9377mY

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