2016-09-01 / Around Town

SPOTLIGHT on Music

Meet Joe Potenza
By Mark Gorman


(Photo courtesy of David Lee Black) (Photo courtesy of David Lee Black) Families can be funny. After seeing The Beatles perform on “The Ed Sullivan Show,” it took several months of begging my parents before they got me a rented guitar. In comparison, this week’s featured musician had it easy. His parents went out and bought him a new bass guitar without being asked. Talk about lucky! Meet Joe Potenza.

“My parents heard me messing around with my friend’s bass for two years. So they went out and bought me a brand new Fender Precision bass when I was in the ninth grade. They knew enough to get a good one in case things didn’t work out. My family knew I was a musician before I knew it,” the bassist explained.

Although not musicians themselves, his parents certainly fostered an appreciation for music in their three sons. “Both of my brothers are great guitarists. My younger brother plays in a fabulous funk band and my older brother is the head of the guitar department at USC,” he continued.

Potenza grew up in Providence and attended La Salle Academy and Providence College. Education was deemed important and the musician paid for much of it himself. “My senior year of La Salle was paid for with my paper route. When it was time for college, my father took me to the bank and had the loan officer explain my obligations. Dad said, ‘If you sign, I’ll sign.’ During college, I worked in several jewelry factories to pay off the loan,” he recalled.

While gigging extensively in the evenings, Potenza taught high school at the now-closed St. Xavier and also worked with at-risk adults. In the 1990s, he joined the R&B/ jazz/funk band The Chili Brothers and also became a fixture in the Newport music scene. “[Local pianist bandleader] Mac Chrupcala brought me out on many society gigs and taught me a lot,” the bassist said.

Potenza has tremendous chops and can play chords and melodies simultaneously while soloing. And his range is wide. “I like variety. That’s why I freelance. I don’t like playing just one style,” he offered.

Be sure to catch Joe, along with the Fran Curley Trio, on Sundays in September, starting Sept. 11, at the Hotel Viking lounge, 1 Bellevue Ave., from 7-11 p.m. For more information, follow Joe Potenza on Facebook.

Mark Gorman is a retired high school guidance counselor and guitarist-vocalist who performs locally each week.

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