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Chris Potter at the Cheltenham Jazz Festival, 5/5/12

The saxophonist invites a host of young players to join him for lunch

Colossus of contemporary sax Chris Potter got the Cheltenham Jazz Festival weekend off to a stunning start on May 5 with an intriguing new venture. Last seen at Cheltenham with the all-star Overtone Quartet, Potter returned with something very different, a performance of his chamber-jazz suite, the beautifully expansive album, A Song For Anyone. Alongside him sat nine of Birmingham Conservatoire’s top young musicians-three string players, three woodwinds, guitar, double bass and drums-specially assembled for the lunchtime concert.

The setting was very much “maestro-plus-students.” While the accomplished younger players were not quite starstruck, they were certainly keen to impress. Soaring above the richly textured score, it goes without saying that their American bandleader played brilliantly. With a prodigy like Potter in charge, the students’ offerings were more tentative, understandably. But Rebecca Woodcock on clarinet, clean-picking Gareth Fowler on guitar and, in particular, Pei Ann Yeoh on violin gave some spirited efforts. Dan Casimir was outstanding on bass too, responding to soloists, cruising with the band and dueting with verve alongside Potter in one piece.

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