Award-winning, Russian-American jazz pianist and composer, Sabine Pothier who likes to go by just “Sabine,” will be closing out The Athena Foundation for the Arts 2022 Fall Concert series with her program. Jazz lovers are in for a treat! Sabine has curated an outstanding lineup of piano jazz, ready to delight you with her spot-on improvisations of favorites by Bill Evans, Chick Corea, Cole Porter, Michel Legrand and Miles Davis as well as the world premiere of her original composition, Tune for Errol. Monday Night Jazz never sounded better.
But first, I’d like to take a moment to introduce this exceptional pianist to you. Sabine has been wowing audiences with her piano prowess and passion for jazz at notable venues and festivals across the country including the LACMA Jazz series, San Jose Jazz Festival, The Lighthouse, The Baked Potato, Barbara Morrison Performing Arts Center and more.
While in the midwest and Washington, D.C., Sabine played with notable jazz artists including Blue Note bassist Butch Warren of Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter and Thelonious Monk fame, trumpeter Scotty Barnhart, director of the Count Basie Orchestra and divas including Michelle Coltrane, daughter of saxophonist John Coltrane. Sabine has recorded jazz albums with her trio, Tony Dumas on bass and Jon Stuart on drums. Her trio might be performing in our concert series in the near future. For now we’ll enjoy Sabine’s remarkable jazz piano solos.
The Athena Foundation for the Arts Chair and Program Director, Linda Wehrli recently caught up with Saine about her upcoming Athena concert. Here’s the story:
LRW: Sabine, it was such a pleasure hearing you play and getting acquainted at the Open Mic night at the church earlier this year. And here we are hosting your solo piano jazz concert in our Fall 2022 concert series! May I ask how you decided on the pieces you’ve curated for our program? Why these composers? Why now?
SB: Why those tunes and composers? Because I play them and those particular pieces with my trio (except for Tune For Errol, this one is intended as a solo piece emulating Errol Garner’s very exquisite style, and Harlem stride is very special to me).
LRW: I’m looking forward to the world premiere of your composition, Tune for Errol. My dad was a huge Errol Garner fan. I’m a Steve Wonder fan, myself so I’m excited that he’s included in the line up.
SP: I picked Stevie Wonder’s song because it’s my favorite one, and it’s very intense: so I decided to infuse it with straight-ahead McCoy Tyner’s feel.
LRW: It’s so remarkable that you can take a piece by one composer and play it in the style of another. I also love Bill Evans.
SP: Turn Out the Stars by Bill Evans is very randomly played, not because musicians don’t like Bill Evans’s music, but because it’s extremely complex and challenging.
LRW: I bet. My dad turned me onto Chick Corea back in the 1970s. He’s an icon.
SP: Tones for Joan’s Bones was picked because I love this song very much, so I decided on that one, not to mention my admiration for Chick.
LRW: Admiration shared. I noticed Cole Porter is in your program.
SP: In Love For Sale, I found the groove that makes this tune special, I also like to experiment with time signatures.
LRW: I can’t wait to hear what you do to this timeless piece. I see another original work on your program.
SP: LA in the Fall (original) is always a favorite one at any concert, no matter if it’s performed with trio, or solo.
LRW: Nice. I think of trumpet when I think of Miles Davis. What was your thought about including him in your concert.
SP: Nardis by Miles Davis is very modal, but gives me so much to thrive with ideas.
LRW: Interesting. I see you’ll be closing with an iconic piece by Michel Legrand.
SP: Windmills Of Your Mind by Michel Legrand is the song you hear at the movie Umbrellas Of Sherborne starring Catherine Denevue (very end), and I have a weakness for French music (Legrand is one of my big faves!).
LRW: Classic. Same. Have you studied or performed with any of these fine composers? If so, when and what are the stories as they relate to your upcoming concert?
SP: No, I have never met any of them, except for Chick who I met at the Catalina Club concert several years ago, and I introduced myself, that’s it. In my case it wouldn’t be possible to meet either one of them, because I’m originally from former Soviet Union. I was trained as heavy duty classical concert pianist, there was no way for me to meet them, and especially, study with them. Believe or not, back in 2007 (I just graduated from USC),I had no idea who Chick Corea was as well as Herbie Hancock.
LRW: That’s totally understandable. I love how you bridged over from classical to jazz piano, too. In addition to soloing and playing trios, do you also perform with larger ensembles or jazz bands? Tell us more about your musicians and how you came to collaborate.
SP: I normally play in small groups, if I’m hired as a side person, but mostly with my trio (I’d probably add a horn or vibes if I think it’s necessary. I love collaboration and interacting in smaller groups, because everybody can stretch on solos, and I truly enjoy comping: it keeps me inventive and experimental with harmonic progressions and rhythm. Speaking of shameless self-promotion, I get compliments about my comping all the time, and this is very dear to me. Also, making arrangements for trio, or quartet doesn’t take much time as for a big band.
LRW: No apologies needed about self-promo. I’ve heard you comp and you’re amazing. How did you form your trio?
SP: I met Izaak, my drummer, via social media (he liked my playing a lot), and when I showed him my originals, he loved them instantly, and introduced me to Kirsh, his friend, he became my bassist. I also enjoy working as a duo setting (singer, horn player). It could be challenging at some point, because the nature of comping changes completely, but I don’t mind that at all.
LRW: Good creative challenge, for sure! Do you happen to have a favorite quote by a composer or musician that you’d like to share with our readers?
SP: I think, the best quotes belong to Chick Corea. Here’s my most favorite one by him:Play only what you hear. If you don’t hear anything, don’t play anything! ~ Chick Corea Click To Tweet
I think, it defines everything: a style, a tastefulness, phrasing, etc.
LRW: Ooh! I love this. Thanks for sharing. Thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule for the interview.
SP: I want to thank Linda and The Athena Foundation for the Arts for having me.
LRW: Our pleasure, Sabine. We look forward to your concert this coming Monday.
Be sure to check out this phenomenal jazz pianist’s social media platforms:
Monday, December 19, 2022
Check-in: 7:15 PM
Concert: 8:00 PM – 9:30 PM PDT
Church of Scn of the Valley
11455 Burbank Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 91601
FREE Parking: Farmdale Avenue lot and street parking
Purchase tickets on Eventbrite here or scan the QR code at the door. Cash or Credit card payments by Zettle/Paypal also available. Questions? Please feel free to email us. Looking forward to an inspiring concert!
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Although I am mostly a classical music lover, I enjoyed reading about these jazz artists and do recognize many names. I would love to learn more and attend this most interesting program, but unfortunately I do not live in California. Best wishes to Sabine.
Glad you enjoyed the read. I wish you were able to attend, too. Thanks for the kind words.
Nice article. I’m excited to hear the premiere of “Tune for Errol” and the rest of her program tomorrow!
Glad you liked. Looking forward to seeing you there!