CULT CLASSIC: STEVE POTTS-MUSIQUE POUR LE FILM D’UN AMI.
Cult Classic: Steve Potts-Musique Pour Le Film D’Un Ami.
Sadly, musical history is littered with artists whose music never received the recognition that it deserved. Often, it’s only much later that their albums start to find the audience that they so richly deserve. That was the case with Alice Clark, Gram Parsons, Laraaji, John Martyn, Nick Drake, Terry Callier, William Onyeabor and Steve Potts whose 1975 soundtrack Musique Pour Le Film D’Un Ami was recently reissued by the Souffle Continu label. It was the latest chapter in the story of the former architecture student turned jazz saxophonist.
Steve Potts was born in Columbus, Ohio, on January the ’21st’ 1943 and grew-up in a musical family. At an early age, he discovered the saxophone when he heard his cousin Buddy Tate playing in Count Basie’s orchestra. Not long after this, Steve Potts decided to follow in his elder cousin’s footsteps and began playing the saxophone. Initially, this was just a hobby, but this soon changed.
After graduating from high school, Steve Potts headed to Los Angeles where simultaneously he studied architecture and music with Charles Lloyd. Eventually, he decided to dedicate himself to music and headed to New York where he continued his studies with Eric Dolphy.
Having settled in New York, Steve Potts became friends with bassist Ron Carter, and in his spare time was a regular in the city’s jazz clubs where he saw many jazz greats play. This included everyone from John Coltrane, Chick Corea, Herbie Hancock and Wayne Shorter to Jimmy Garrison, Larry Coryell and Tony Williams. However, it wasn’t long before Steve Potts was sharing the stage with some familiar faces.
When Steve Potts started working as a sideman he found himself accompanying Roy Ayers, Richard Davis, Joe Henderson and Reggie Workman. He also spent four years working with Chico Hamilton. This was all part of his musical apprenticeship and was good experience Steve Potts who had decided to leave New York and head to Europe.
In 1970, Steve Potts left New York behind and headed to Paris, France, where the next chapter in his career began. By then, he was regarded as one of the most talented avant-garde musicians of his generation. His decision to relocate to Paris allowed him to work with like minded musicians and fulfil his potential.
Over the next three years Steve Potts worked with a variety of French and American artists and groups. This included jazz guitarist Boulou Ferré, avant-garde pop vocalist and poet Brigitte Fontaine, gypsy guitarist Christian Escoudé, bebop tenor saxophonist Dexter Gordon as well as Johnny Griffin, Mal Waldron, Ben Webster, Hal Singer and free jazz pioneers Art Ensemble Of Chicago. Working with such a wide variety of artists and groups was good experience for Steve Potts. Despite that, by 1973 he was ready was to make the move from sideman to bandleader.
Steve Potts began putting his new band together in 1973 and the final lineup featured Boulou Ferré, Christian Escoudé, Gus Nemeth and Oliver Johnson. This was the start of a new chapter in Steve Potts career.
Later in 1973, he met soprano saxophonist Steve Lacy. Little did they know that this meeting was the start of a thirty year partnership that would see the pair tour the world several times and record over twenty-five albums.
Just two years later in 1975, Steve Potts briefly left Steve Lacy’s band when he got the chance to record his debut album Musique Pour Le Film D’Un Ami (Music For a Friend’s Film). This came about when director Joaquín Lledó needed a soundtrack to his forthcoming film Le sujet ou le secrétaire aux mille et un tiroirs. The man chosen to record the soundtrack was Steve Potts.
Joining Steve Potts in Studio Acousti was a talented and versatile band that included drummers Donny Donable and Kenny Tyler; double bassists Gus Nemeth, Jean-Jacques Avenel and guitarist Christian Escoudé. They were joined by pianist Frank Abel, Elie Ferré on acoustic guitar, accordionist Joss Basselli, trumpeter Ambroise Jackson and Keno Speller on bongos. Steve Potts played alto and soprano saxophone on Musique Pour Le Film D’Un Ami which was produced by Joachim Noessi.
When Musique Pour Le Film D’Un Ami was released later in 1975 on the small Un-Deux-Trois label, Steve Potts’ much-anticipated debut album sunk without trace. It was a bitter blow for one of leading lights of avant-garde music scene in Paris.
Steve Potts and his band had recorded what was a quite beautiful, groundbreaking mixploitatation soundtrack where they push musical boundaries to their limits as they fuse disparate genres. They combine avant-garde, free funk, fusion, leftfield kitsch and modal jazz during the eleven tracks. Sometimes, the group enjoyed the opportunity to embark upon an ambitious genre-melting jam that draws inspiration from various musical genres.
Other times, the music is inspired by the music of the early to mid seventies. This includes the album opener Marie-France where the keyboards sound as if they belong on an early seventies fusion album and the hissing hi-hats sound as if they belong in an early to mid seventies Blaxploitation soundtrack. Steve Potts had drawn inspiration from a variety of genres and artists and the result was an ambitious and innovative albums where genres melted into one.
Steve Potts’ genre-melting debut album Musique Pour Le Film D’Un Ami is best described as a mixploitatation album given the way he and his combined different musical genres as they provided the soundtrack to Joaquín Lledó’s film. The result was an album that went way beyond the similarly ambitious Blaxploitation soundtracks that were still popular in 1975. It was also an album that embraced and encouraged the hybridity concept of global unity. Musique Pour Le Film D’Un Ami was an album that was way ahead of its time.
It was only much later that critics and record buyers rediscovered Musique Pour Le Film D’Un Ami and the album started to attract a following. Hopefully, and albeit belatedly a new generation of music fans will rediscover Steve Potts 1975 ambitious and innovative genre-melting debut album Musique Pour Le Film D’Un Ami which for too long has been overlooked and hopefully this seminal soundtrack will receive the recognition it deserves.
Cult Classic: Steve Potts-Musique Pour Le Film D’Un Ami.