I caught the middle portion of Dave Potter’s Retro Groove livestream from Venkman’s this past Friday, 4/30/21, and it was fantastic. Great playing all around, creative repertoire choices, and fantastic ensemble playing. Here are my impressions as I jotted them down while listening.
Flying Sequence, from the 1978 Superman movie starring Christopher Reeve opens with an impressionistic piano introduction by pianist Austin Johnson leading to a powerful and focused reading of the melody by tenor saxophonist Miguel Alverado. After a brief bass solo by Terrell Montgomery, Alverado is back with a piercing, focused solo that leads into an extended obligato ending for nearly a minute ending with a flourish reminiscent of the Coltrane Quartet.
Next up is a cover of Cult of Personality by Living Colour. One of the many things I love about Dave’s Retro Groove project is that he remains true to the original when he plays cover songs in a way that’s rare for these types of projects. Groups tend to arrange the life out of tune in order to put their stamp on it and the resulting music often lacks the vigor and immediacy of the original. Not here. The melody stays close to the original, complete with the ostinato bass line. From the moment the sax solos start, however, the groove opens up and intensifies. Alvarado’s solo culminates in a sudden duet with Potter that leads back into the intricate arrangement.
It’s the middle of the show, and Dave is introducing the band and riffing like a comedian, delivering one-liners and relating stories and jokes about the musician life.
Back to music now.
You’ve Got It All, another 80s pop song, surprises with its harmonic twists and meandering melody. Johnson delivers a sensitive solo that continually hints at the melody before Alvarado returns with the melody before embarking on a solo of his own. The comparisons to the Coltrane quartet and any group featuring Jeff Tain Watts are inevitable with groups led by Dave Potter. He is heavily influenced by these and other masters, but remains true to himself and his vision in a way that is compelling and original.