The history of American music is threaded with towering talents who have never received their rightful due. While often a result of bad luck, poor timing, lack of opportunity, or critical misinterpretation, often these figures are simply humble souls that prefer to devote their efforts to the realization of the music of their peers, shunning the limelight by working as side men and women. There is hardly a better example than the saxophonist Steve Potts. Best known for his 30-year partnership with Steve Lacy, the incredible Paris based imprint, Souffle Continu, now brings him rocketing into our consciousness as a singular band leader with the first ever reissue of his 1975 debut, Musique Pour le Film d'un Ami. An absolutely astounding, peerless piece of work, it’s a jaw dropper that leaves you wondering where it’s been all these years.
Born in Columbus, Ohio and student of Charles Lloyd and Eric Dolphy, Steve Potts began his career in New York during the 1960s, working in the bands of Roy Ayers, Richard Davis, Joe Henderson, Reggie Workman, and Chico Hamilton. In 1970, like many of the most talented voices of his generation, he joined the great migration of African American avant-garde artists to Europe, settling in Paris where he performed with Dexter Gordon, Johnny Griffin, Slide Hampton, Mal Waldron, Ben Webster, Hal Singer, Christian Escoudé, Boulou Ferré, and Oliver Johnson, before meeting Steve Lacy 1973 and departing on what would be a singular creative partnership that would last 30 years.
The vast majority of Potts’ output is as a sideman, with handful of duos with Lacy and jointly billed ensembles peppered throughout. His sound and remarkable sensitivity shines through it all, but there’s almost nothing like his 1975 solo debut, Musique PourlLe Film d'un Ami, issued by the tiny and short lived French imprint, Un-Deux-Trois, the incredible output of which Souffle Continu has already begun unearthing with their reissues of Jean-François Pauvros and Gaby Bizien’s No Man's Land, and Workshop De Lyon’s La Chasse de Shirah Sharibad.
Musique Pour le Film d'un Ami belongs to a secondary history of the life of African music in Europe. Not only where artists graced with more opportunities to play and record, with more freedom, than they had been in the United States, but they were often given opportunities to score for film that would have never happened at home, particularly noteworthy through soundtracks created by Miles Davis, Art Blakey, Art Ensemble of Chicago, and Don Cherry. The long overdue reemergence of Potts’ Musique Pour le Film d'un Ami represents yet another crucial piece in this narrative.
Instigated by the director Joaquín Lledó as the soundtrack for his forthcoming 1975 film, Le sujet ou le secrétaire aux mille et un tiroirs, Potts briefly took leave of Steve Lacy’s band and entered the studio with a substantial cast of players - Joss Basselli, Elie Ferré, Keno Speller, Gus Nemeth, Jean-Jacques Avenel, Donny Donable, Kenny Tyler, Christian Escoudé, Frank Abel, and Ambroise Jackson - to create one of the most beautiful and creatively singular albums of its moment, simply titled “Music For a Friend's Film”. Despite Potts’ remarkable pedigree in avant-garde and freely improvised jazz, Musique Pour le Film d'un Ami encounters the saxophonist stretching out and pushing far afield, easily shifting between and intertwining elements of modal jazz, free funk, left-field kitsch, deep grooves, and heavy jams into a cohesive whole that lots the ear at the heart of its murky depths, and pushes way beyond the similarly ambitious Blaxploitation soundtracks of the moment into a new, hybriditic territory of global unity.
Always ahead of the curve, bringing seminal lost works back into centre of our consciousness, Souffle Continu have done it again. A true joy in listening and historically as important as they come, their first ever reissue of Steve Potts’ masterstroke, Musique Pour Le Film D'Un Ami, is remastered from the fully licensed master tapes and issued with restored artwork, a 4 page booklet, and Obi strip in a limited vinyl edition. A record that turns everything on its head and is not to be missed.