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Saw Chris Potter at the Village Vanguard on 12/26 (late set) and 12/27 (both sets). This was my first time seeing him live. He played with David Virelles (piano), Joe Martin (bass), and Marcus Gilmore (drums). Potter was playing an SBA with a Link mouthpiece, which seems to be his setup recently judging from available YouTube videos. He also played some soprano and bass clarinet. They played all original material, some previously-recorded and some not.

The second night I sat directly in front of him (i.e., arm’s length) for both sets, which was a real treat. In addition to being enjoyable and interesting performances, these sets felt like a personal sax masterclass. In no particular order, here are a few observations:

(1) Without rehashing the usual comments about Potter’s prodigious technique, I was particularly struck by his flawless rhythm, which is relentlessly driving and soothing all at the same time - even his out-of-time playing has an undeniable rhythmic sense that draws you in. I also found it interesting that the “theme and variations” approach he sometimes takes to improvising is just as likely be rooted in rhythmic themes as melodic ideas.
(2) His attacks are SO damn clean and immediate. It’s just one more technical aspect of his playing that provides the foundation for his eloquence and expressiveness. I’m inspired to do some hard work on this aspect of my playing now.
(3) When he’s playing a sustained middle D he generally uses the left palm side D alone rather than the standard fingering. When middle D is in the middle of a run he uses the traditional fingering. I’d be curious to know if he does this due to sound/intonation on this particular horn or if it’s something he does in general.
(4) When playing G# he almost always fingers the C# key with his left pinky.
(5) At several points during both nights he seemed to be having a problem with a sticky front high F key (a button touchpiece on the SBA). It seemed like there was something sticky on top of the B key that he struggled to remove. There was no issue perceptible in his playing, but it obviously bugged him. It was kind of comforting to know that these little horn annoyances happen even to the best.

Overall, two nights of truly great music.
 

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I've seen him live numerous times and have fortunately been seated just a few feet away as well - a couple times front row at the Vanguard and once at Mezzrow - it's always great to see and hear everything up close.

+1 on (1) and (2), I'm always in awe of his playing.

I've noticed (4) when I've seen him live and also on youtube, always thought it was interesting that he prefers the C# key to play G#. I never noticed (3) but I'll keep on eye out for it next time.

Similar to (5) the last time I saw him at the Vanguard it looked like he was using his nail at one point to adjust a screw/rod that backed out, maybe for the upper stack or for side E at the top of the horn. Wish I had a small eyeglass screwdriver on me that I could've lent him, haha.
 

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I sat right in front of him at a show in LA in May 2018 and he was playing on a Mark VI tenor and soprano, interesting that he's gone back to the SBA. I guess when you play like him you go into a store and every horn plays incredibly well regardless of brand, serial number, etc....
 

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(3) When he’s playing a sustained middle D he generally uses the left palm side D alone rather than the standard fingering. When middle D is in the middle of a run he uses the traditional fingering. I’d be curious to know if he does this due to sound/intonation on this particular horn or if it’s something he does in general.
I've seen Eric Alexander live several times, and he does the same thing. I get the feeling that it's about the timbre/tone when he (Eric) does it, but that is pure speculation.
 

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(4) When playing G# he almost always fingers the C# key with his left pinky.

I've never tried this alternate fingering until I read this thread and was just so happening working through some walter bishop theory exercises and this is helpful
 

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When he’s playing a sustained middle D he generally uses the left palm side D alone rather than the standard fingering. When middle D is in the middle of a run he uses the traditional fingering. I’d be curious to know if he does this due to sound/intonation on this particular horn or if it’s something he does in general.
For a sustained middle D, when he's using the palm key, it's almost certainly for the different timbre using that fingering (as thisidigofyou said). I think Coltrane did the same thing on occasion. It gives a pretty distinct tone quality. Try it and compare it to the standard fingering and you'll hear it.

That fingering is also sometimes useful for a trill or triplet (i.e. C# D C#) or quick passage. But that's a different reason to use it.
 
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