Drummer Andrew Scott Potter has had a really interesting and varied musical career. During the 70s and 80s, he was based in Chicago, where he played in a dizzying array of settings. Starting in the mid-1970s, he recorded with the jazz-rock group Streetdancer - which then included a young Chico Freeman on saxophones - and worked extensively with pianist Walter Bishop, Jr., vocalist Nanette Natal, and keyboardist David Tillman. Potter also recorded some startlingly good indie-label jazz and fusion LPs with Tillman ("New York to L.A. - Coasting") and bassist Eric Hochberg ("World Thing") before pulling up stakes and moving to Brazil in the early ‘90s.
Based in Florianopolis, Potter worked with top-shelf Brazilian jazz musicians such as bassist Paulo Russo and pianists Gilson Peranzzetta (of Zimbo Trio fame) and Dario Galante while soaking up the home-brewed rhythms. Over the past decade, he developed a unique drumming style that blends familiar jazz, bossa and samba moves with the staccato Afro-Brazilian rhythms one might hear coming from the tamborim in an escola de samba during Carnival.
While Potter's previous recordings with Russo, Galante, and Peranzzetta (as 'The Rio de Janiero Jazz Trio') are fine examples of Brazilian-influenced Jazz, his immersion in all aspects of Brazilian culture comes refreshingly to the forefront on Coco Bop Samba Rap. The CD is paired with a DVD that combines in-concert footage of Potter backing various Brazilian musicians and vocalists (most of whom are featured on the CD) with a variety of street, Carnival, and beach scenes from in and around the city of Florianopolis. The overall feel is somewhat like a musical travelogue.
The Coco Bop Samba Rap CD is a different story altogether. Here, Potter successfully incorporates hip-hop and Afro-Brazilian folkloric influences into a modern jazz framework without compromising either the jazz or the folk music. This is most evident on tracks such as "Eu Avistei" where a haunting call-and-response melody (sung by the folkloric group 'Coco Raiz de Arcoverde') flutters over a hypnotic bass ostinato, churning drums and polyrhythmic Brazilian percussion. Gracefully understated solos by saxophonist Gustavo Anacleto, trumpeter Fabio Costa, and pianist Ranieri Ricardo follow, somehow deepening the trance-like ambiance. Despite the urbane jazz sound of the piano and horns, the ritualistic and very ancient feel of the Folklorico music makes the deepest impression.
A similar approach - with similarly affecting results - is also used on "Baralho Dois Ouro", "Samba Duro", and "Coco Bop Rap Suite". Potter’s growing interest in a wider variety of musical influences seems to have upped the ante on his jazz game as well - "Coco Bop Samba Rap" contains some of his best straight-ahead and Latin jazz playing ever. Of particular note in this regard are "On The Upside" and "Very Easy".
On the jazz-fusion tip, "Coco Rumba" features excellent, adventurous solos by guitarist Bruce Whitcomb and an uncredited violinist. "Boa Viagem" and "Vamparatu" mix fusion, hip-hop, and breezy Brazilian pop à la Sergio Mendes. "Vamparatu", which sounds like some of the fusion stuff Potter did back in the 70s, features deep, sinewy improvisations from Whitcomb and veteran saxophonist Alex Foster.
Coco Bop Samba Rap does what its title suggests and presents a surprisingly generous slice of Brazilian culture that will engage and please open-minded listeners. Clearly, the folkloric and ‘world music’ elements are more than just a pastiche, while excellent playing and fine compositions carry the day on Potter’s most ambitious work to date.