By Phillip Milano
Mix together one of the most potent jazz sax players of his generation, a local music prodigy and his world-class mentor who now teaches at Jacksonville University, and what do you get?
“Chris Potter in Concert with The Mica Bethea Big Band,” March 9 at the Times-Union Center for the Performing Arts. Not only that, but a free Master Class for the public with Potter the day before, in Terry Concert Hall at JU.
“Chris Potter is one of the most copied performers today, an experimental genius, and this is a chance to really see the cutting-edge of jazz,” said John W. Ricci, Director of Jazz Studies at JU, which is sponsoring both events. “Literally, there’s a novel’s worth of drama in every solo he plays.”
Bethea studied music under Ricci while a student at the University of North Florida, then turned much of his talent to writing and arranging after a car accident in 2005 left him a quadriplegic. His 18-piece big band is a hand-picked group of some of the finest and most original jazz performers and composers in North Florida. They will back Potter as he plows through his own boundary-pushing originals and also puts his spin on jazz classics arranged by Bethea.
Ricci, an award-winning saxophonist himself whose debut CD “Holding Time” has earned high praise, started the Jazz Studies program at JU a decade ago, and plays in Bethea’s band. The two collaborated on putting together the Potter visit to Jacksonville.
“I’ve always wanted to work in this way with John, and to do something that shows what JU has and helps it flourish,” said Bethea, who’s been lauded by Downbeat Magazine and whose 2011 CD “The Mica Bethea Big Band” won critical acclaim.
“John has great connections, and through JU we can help build the music scene locally,” Bethea said. “They have some of the best faculty there, and more people need to know about it. What better way than to have a good concert that includes some of their own personnel in the band?”
In addition to Ricci, JU Professor of Jazz Piano Scott Giddens and JU senior trombone player Corey Wilcox are slated to perform at the concert in Bethea’s band.
The Master Class at JU will give the public a chance to see and learn first-hand from a top performer, said JU College of Fine Arts Dean Bill Hill. He added that the first 30 high school students at the class will receive complimentary tickets to the next evening’s concert.
“It’s really a chance to interact with these performers and understand their creative process and style,” Hill said. “It fits with the mission of our Jazz Studies program, which focuses on exposing students to the passion and collaborative aspects of the newest styles in the jazz idiom.”
IF YOU GO:
What: Chris Potter in Concert with The Mica Bethea Big Band, preceded by a Master Class for the public the day before with Potter.
When: Concert at 7 p.m. Saturday, March 9, in Terry Theater at the Times-Union Center for the Performing Arts. Master Class at 3 p.m. Friday, March 8, at Terry Concert Hall at Jacksonville University.
Tickets: For concert: $20 for adults, $10 for students with ID. Available at all Ticketmaster outlets, at ticketmaster.com or by calling the Times-Union Center at (904) 633-6110. For master class: free.
More information: Contact John W. Ricci at (904) 256-7457 or firstname.lastname@example.org.