Jackson Potter has just finished his Bachelor of Music degree in Jazz Guitar from the Frost School of Music at the University of Miami under the direction of John Hart. But don’t make the mistake of thinking that he is new to the Jazz scene. He has been playing professionally since the age of 16. He has won numerous individual and group awards and has performed with a stellar array of Grammy-winning and -nominated Jazz artists.
Potter’s debut album, Restless, has brought along a great line up of Miami’s first-call performers. With Potter on guitar, he is joined by Leo Folsom on piano, Patrick Leavy on bass, and Gibb Mandish on drums. Of the eight tracks on the album, six are composed by Potter and all are arranged by him.
The album opens with Bird Flu, a Potter original, and loosely based on Charlie Parker’s classic Segment. Potter, however, switches up the rhythms and harmonies, giving it his indelible personal stamp. David Mason is featured on Alto saxophone and the piece starts off with cool swing and a sweet dialogue between guitar and sax. The rhythm section shows from the beginning why they are the chosen ones for this album. These guys can bring it.
Steve Swallow’s Falling Grace follows with drummer Mandish kicking it all off with a hot drum solo. Everybody in the quartet gets their own featured solo and they make it count. Already by the second track, you can see that Potter is here to stay. With ever-so-subtle hints of Pat Metheny, Potter has his own voice and it is worth hearing.
Mulberry tree, another Jackson Potter original, may put the listener in mind of a samba, especially an Antonio Carlos Jobim style. Potter himself gets an extended solo, along with bassist Leavy. Potter’s touch is exquisite—deliberate but delicate when appropriate. Then Leo Folsom’s piano solo takes over just after the halfway mark with him and Mandish working beautifully together.
Sophia’s Waltz is written for his girlfriend. The delicate nature of Potter’s touch is on full display here and paints a delightful and loving portrait of the woman he loves. Folsom adds his own fine sensibilities on piano and Leavy’s understated bass is sweet (and I mean that in a good way). Potter’s guitar is warm and refined and the composition is flawless. You’ve got to love this guy.
Folsom disappears for two tracks and the trio of guitar, bass, and drums takes a different look at a Potter original and a Horace Silver classic. The original is Amalfi is based on the Amalfi Coast of Southern Italy, a UNESCO World Heritage site. It is on the little spur of land, just south of Naples. The music is as warm and inviting as the climate of Amalfi. Leavy gets a great bass solo along the way and Mandish ends it all with driving drum work. But that guitar of Potter’s is delectable.
Horace Silver’s Peace is perfect for the trio setting (sorry, Folsom) and the solo guitar introduction is fascinating, a great way to open the classic piece. I mean, Peace. It made me go back and listen again to Silver’s Blowin’ the Blues Away. Leavy’s bass is excellent. Silver described the writing of Peace like this: “I was doodlin’ around on the piano, and it just came to me, but I also had the impression that there was an angel standing over me, impressing my mind with this beautiful melody and harmony.” The slow ballad is just so very well done.
Folsom returns for Hindsight is 2020 a look back at that year of pandemic. As Folsom returns, the quartet is joined by Mason on alto sax, Joey Curreri on trumpet and Carter Key on tenor trombone. It is emotional without being maudlin and the play between horns and rhythm section with the focal guitar is wonderful. I said wonderful. Hang on for Mason’s sax solo. The close with all hands on deck is fantastic.
The album closes with the title track, Restless. Potter waiting for the album’s finale to cut loose his inner Rock shredder. All seven artists from the previous track return in fury for this one. In a nod and a wink to Weather Report, Potter and company drive it all home with force and fire. Smoking hot.
A great album by any measure, Restless is incredible as a debut. Jackson Potter can write and arrange and compose with the best of them. This guy has a home and a future in Jazz.