Dave Potter and Retro Groove
“I Can’t Help It”
Responding to the question of why jazz bands don’t play more songs that today’s audiences will recognize, drummer Dave Potter decided to mine a rich melodic vein: 1970s-1980s music. The North Carolina native arranged a mixtape’s worth of hits from the ear-friendly era, injecting swing and improvisation into songs by Prince, Peter Gabriel, Tears for Fears, Living Colour, Steve Winwood and The Doobie Brothers. The results can be heard on his band’s eponymous release Dave Potter and Retro Groove (Square Biz), the cover and inside artwork of which are designed to look like a vintage arcade video game. That’s not to say Potter doesn’t play straightahead jazz or honor the music’s history; after all, he was mentored by Marcus Roberts, was selected to join the elite Louis Armstrong Quintet at the University of New Orleans and is a member of the Jason Marsalis Vibes Quartet. In fact, the Atlanta-based drummer brings solid post-bop sensibilities to his interpretations of the retro radio hits, aided by a first-rate quartet comprising saxophonist Miguel Alvarado, pianist Angelo Versace and bassist Terrell Montgomery. Consider the album’s final track, an uptempo read of the ballad “I Can’t Help It,” a Stevie Wonder/Susaye Greene composition recorded by Michael Jackson in 1979. Retro Groove picks up on the song’s positive vibe and sprints with it, powered by Potter’s aggressive attack.