On Traveling Mercies, Potter's second disc for Verve, the saxophonist reflects upon things he encountered on recent tours as a bandleader and as a sideman with such artists as Dave Holland, Dave Douglas and Steely Dan.
From the opening track, as Potter's tenor saxophone rises over a bed of electric keyboards and sampled sounds, Traveling Mercies marks a departure from his previous recordings. "The idea that I had thematically was to explore different ideas about American history and how they affect people living now, so the whole point is to understand the present," Potter says. "And in the present, there's electronica, there's music from all over the world influencing everybody, and there are all sorts of different sounds that people are exploring."
Traveling Mercies opens with "Megalopolis," a towering, teeming urban soundscape. "Snake Oil" was inspired by the old-time medicine shows that would roll into American towns to sell miracle cures. Each song on the album, including "Washed Ashore," "Migrations," and "Any Moment Now" is a Potter original, with the exception of Willie Nelson's spiritual "Just As I Am" and Potter's take on the traditional hymn "Children Go."
Potter is joined on his musical journey by bandmates with whom he has shared many of his experiences on the road: pianist Kevin Hays, bassist Scott Colley and drummer Bill Stewart. Two guitarists make special guest appearances: labelmate John Scofield and Adam Rogers.
Says Potter of his new recording: "I would like to dedicate this recording to the hope that, knowing where we've come from and where we want to go, we will make our decisions as a society out of respect and compassion for one another and the world we live in.
Raised in Columbia, South Carolina, Potter moved to New York at the age of 18 to study at the Manhattan School of Music. While a student, Potter began playing with Red Rodney’s band. This proved to be the first of many high profile gigs for the saxophonist. His incredible resumé includes tours and recordings with Jim Hall, Ray Brown, James Moody, Steve Swallow, Larry Carlton, Paul Motian, Steely Dan, and others. The youngest musician ever to receive the esteemed Danish Jazzpar Prize, Potter’s work on Joanne Brackeen’s Pink Elephant Magic earned him a GRAMMY nomination for Best Jazz Instrumental Solo.