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Tuning Up Variations on a Theme : Frank Potenza Wants to Be Known for Versatile Style

April 22, 1993|BILL KOHLHAASE | Bill Kohlhaase is a free-lance writer who regularly covers jazz for The Times Orange County Edition.

He has four pop-jazz albums on the TBA label, and it would be easy to think of Frank Potenza only as a jazz fusion player. But the 42-year-old guitarist thinks that would be a mistake.

"People know me for a certain style, the style that I've had an opportunity to make records in," Potenza says. "But, just as Herbie Hancock can do a rock record and a straight-ahead jazz record and a funk record and a solo piano record, I want to be known for the number of things I can do."

His versatility will be on display at Vinnie's in Laguna Hills this weekend: He plays Friday night in a twosome with bassist Luther Hughes, Saturday night in a duo with singer Dewey Erney and then, on Sunday, he'll trade in his guitar for an electric bass to sit in with singer Barbara Morrison.

This weekend will be the second time that the Rhode Island-native has worked with Erney. The first week, he says, went well. "He gave me some tunes and we just got together and played. He not only knows the verse for every tune ever written, but he can sing them in the original key. That's a rarity."

Potenza says he's been busy writing in preparation for a new recording.

Meanwhile, in addition to his occasional club dates in L.A. and Orange County, he continues to work with singer Sunny Wilkinson, albeit less often now that Wilkinson has relocated to Michigan. The duo performed at the International Jazz Educators' Conference in San Antonio in January and is set to play Le Cafe in Sherman Oaks on May 12.

"I'm trying to become well known as a solo and duo player to increase the kinds of venues I can play," Potenza says. "It's difficult to get people to believe you can handle several different bags. They pigeonhole musicians. But I want to have as diverse a range of opportunities as I can have."

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