Chris Potter (jazz saxophonist)

Chris Potter (born January 1, 1971) is an American jazz saxophonist, composer, and multi-instrumentalist. His main instrument is tenor sax, but he also performs on soprano and alto saxes, bass clarinet, flutes, guitar, and piano.

Chris Potter
Chris Potter in Vienna, April 2019
Background information
Born (1971-01-01) January 1, 1971
Chicago, Illinois, U.S.
Years active1990–present
LabelsCriss Cross, Concord, Verve, Sunnyside, ECM
Associated actsRed Rodney, Dave Holland, Dave Douglas, Paul Motian, Steely Dan, Scott Colley, Craig Taborn

Potter came to prominence as a sideman with trumpeter Red Rodney, before stints with drummer Paul Motian, bassist Dave Holland, trumpeter Dave Douglas and others.[1]


Chris Potter was born in Chicago, Illinois, but his family moved to Columbia, South Carolina, where he spent his formative years. Potter showed an early interest in a wide variety of different music and learned several instruments, including the guitar and piano. He realized after hearing Paul Desmond that the saxophone would be the vehicle that would best allow him to express himself musically.[1]

He played his first professional jazz gig on alto sax at age thirteen. He developed a devoted local following while performing with Johnny Helms and Terry Rosen. After leaving Columbia upon his graduation from Dreher High School, Potter attended college in New York City, first at the New School and later at the Manhattan School of Music. In New York he began performing with Red Rodney.


Potter has released albums as leader and performed as a sideman on more than 150[2] with Red Rodney, Pat Metheny, Marian McPartland, Patricia Barber, Kenny Werner, the Mingus Big Band, Paul Motian, Ray Brown, Jim Hall, James Moody, Dave Douglas, Joe Lovano, Wayne Krantz, Mike Mainieri, Steve Swallow, Steely Dan, Dave Holland, Joanne Brackeen, Adam Rogers.

His 2006 album Underground, on which he records with an electric, more "groove"-based ensemble featuring Craig Taborn on keyboard, Wayne Krantz or Adam Rogers on guitar; and Nate Smith on drums, was followed by Follow the Red Line: Live at the Village Vanguard with Rogers on all six of its tracks.

Awards and honors

His 1998 album Vertigo was named one of the year's top ten jazz CDs by both Jazziz magazine and The New York Times. The album was inspired by a bout of Ménière's disease that caused severe dizziness and damaged his hearing in one ear.[1] He was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Jazz Instrumental Solo for his work on the Joanne Brackeen album Pink Elephant Magic. His 2004 album Lift: Live at Village Vanguard was named one of the year's ten best jazz recordings by Fred Kaplan of Slate.

Potter has appeared the Down Beat Critic's and Reader's Polls and named Rising Star for Best Tenor Saxophonist in 2004,[3] 2005, 2006[4] and 2007.[5] He was honored as Tenor Saxophonist of the Year 2013 by the Jazz Journalists Association.[6]


As leader

As sideman

With David Binney

  • South (ACT, 2001)
  • Welcome to Life (Mythology, 2004)
  • Bastion of Sanity (Criss Cross Jazz, 2005)
  • Graylen Epicenter (Mythology, 2011)

With Scott Colley

  • Portable Universe (Free Lance, 1996)
  • Subliminal... (Criss Cross Jazz, 1997)
  • This Place (SteepleChase, 1998)
  • The Magic Line (ArtistShare, 2008)

With Dave Douglas

With Fleurine

  • San Francisco (Sunnyside, 2008)
  • Brazilian Dream (Sunnyside, 2018)

With James Francies

  • Flight (Blue Note, 2018)[7]

With Greg Gisbert

  • Harcology (Criss Cross Jazz, 1994)
  • On Second Thought (Criss Cross Jazz, 1994)

With Dave Holland

With Ryan Kisor

  • On the One (Columbia, 1993)
  • Power Source (Criss Cross Jazz, 1999)

With Susannah McCorkle

  • Easy to Love: The Songs of Cole Porter (Concord Jazz, 1996)
  • Let's Face the Music: The Songs of Irving Berlin (Concord Jazz, 1997)
  • Someone to Watch Over Me: The Songs of George Gershwin (Concord Jazz, 1998)

With Pat Metheny

With Mingus Big Band

  • Mingus Big Band 93 - Nostalgia in Times Square (Dreyfus, 1993)
  • !Que Viva Mingus! (Dreyfus, 1997)

With Paul Motian

With John Patitucci

  • One More Angel (Concord Jazz, 1997)
  • Now (Concord Jazz, 1998)
  • Imprint (Concord Jazz, 2000)
  • Line by Line (Concord Jazz, 2006)

With Adam Rogers

  • Allegory (Criss Cross Jazz, 2003)
  • Apparitions (Criss Cross Jazz, 2005)

With Renee Rosnes

  • Ancestors (Blue Note, 1996)
  • As We Are Now (Blue Note, 1997)
  • Life on Earth (Blue Note, 2001)
  • Beloved of the Sky (Smoke Sessions, 2018)

With Alex Sipiagin

  • Images (TCB, 1998)
  • Steppin' Zone (Criss Cross Jazz, 2001)
  • Equilibrium (Criss Cross Jazz, 2004)
  • Prints (Criss Cross Jazz, 2007)
  • Destinations Unknown (Criss Cross Jazz, 2011)
  • Overlooking Moments (Criss Cross Jazz, 2013)
  • Moments Captured (Criss Cross Jazz, 2017)

With Steely Dan

With Steve Swallow

With John Swana

  • The Feeling's Mutual (Criss Cross Jazz, 1993)
  • Tug of War (Criss Cross Jazz, 1999)

With Joris Teepe

  • Seven Days a Week (VIA Jazz, 1998)
  • For Adults Only (Postcards, 2000)

With others


  1. Huey, Steve "Chris Potter Biography, accessed 10 November 2015
  2. "Chris Potter Sideman Discography". Chris Potter Discography Project. Retrieved 13 February 2015.
  3. "Tom Hull: Downbeat Critics Poll: 2004". Retrieved 13 February 2015.
  4. "Tom Hull: Downbeat Critics Poll: 2006". Retrieved 13 February 2015.
  5. "Tom Hull: Downbeat Critics Poll: 2007". Retrieved 13 February 2015.
  6. "JJA Jazz Awards 2014: 2013 JJA Jazz Awards Winners". JJA Jazz Awards 2014. Retrieved 13 February 2015.
  7. "Flight (2018)". Retrieved December 15, 2018.
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