Paul Potyen plays cool jazz piano

Pianist Paul Potyen likes salsa, symphonies and music from Brazil. But what he really loves is jazz, he said.

"I really am omnivorous," Potyen said. It's just that his "jazz sensibility" is what really rises to the top most often, he said.

What: Paul Potyen celebrates the release of "Facets," his CD featuring original piano compositions When: 7:30 to 9:30 p.m. Saturday Where: Steamboat Grand Resort Hotel Cost: Free

Potyen is celebrating the release of "Facets," his CD of original, contemporary jazz piano compositions that span the breadth from Latin to traditional swing, Saturday night in the lobby of the Steamboat Grand Resort Hotel.

The free performance will include renditions of his newly recorded songs in a casual, lounge-like atmosphere.

"Drop in and hang out," Potyen said.

No stranger to the Steamboat Grand Resort Hotel, Potyen has been entertaining visitors in the hotel lobby year-round since he moved to Steamboat Springs three years ago. Potyen is a veteran of the rich jazz community that thrives in California's San Francisco Bay area.

Since opting for a musician's life over the future he'd groomed himself for with his Stanford University mechanical engineering degrees, Potyen has played in a multitude of Bay Area bands and taught at the prestigious Jazzschool in Berkeley, Calif. Now that he has moved to Steamboat, built a sustainable straw-bale, off-the-grid home and started recording CDs, Potyen has honed his musical goals even more.

"I wasn't going to let the business side of music get me down. I was going to play music that was satisfying," Potyen said, remembering his decision to move to Colorado.

Accompanying the hustle and bustle of the hotel lobby is a fairly relaxed job, but it's also a challenge, Potyen said. He said he has thousands of songs memorized, but it is always easier when aficionados are on hand to make requests. One of his favorite things to do these days is take obscure '80s tunes and play them as ballads, in a different key or with a different style so listeners can barely recognize the original song, he said.

As for his new recording, it comprises 15 original songs that are largely piano solos. He calls them "intelligent, unconventional harmonies."

Potyen's songs are languorous, upbeat tunes with a definitive piano groove that compels the listener to accompany the soulful beat with the shake of a dangling foot or a gentle jazzy sway. It is the kind of music that feels equally good from the vantage of a sociable, dark piano bar or the quiet serenity of sinking into a giant leather chair.

While Potyen says the new CD represents different stylistic directions, it is tied together with his unique personality.

"It's a documentation of what I'm doing these days. If you like it, that's great," he said.

In addition to his solo piano performances, Potyen recently has ventured into jazz exploration with a new band called "Organstein." He calls it "monster jazz," with local musicians Steve Boynton on the guitar, Ron Wheeler on the drums and Potyen on the Hammond organ. Mose Allison is the new group's sound inspiration, be it with a more rhythm and blues and 1960s nightclub sound that might sound like Medeski, Martin and Wood to modern audiences, he said.

Potyen brings his passion for jazz and the piano to Colorado Mountain College this fall as well, teaching a broad schedule of classes that include jazz ensemble, ear training and sight singing, a survey of world music, composition and arranging, the history of jazz and piano classes.

"I teach the way I play. I improvise," Potyen said.

Potyen's new CD is available from local merchants, Amazon.com and on iTunes. He will be playing a sample of his original jazz piano compositions from 7:30 to 9:30 p.m. Saturday in the lobby of the Steamboat Grand Resort Hotel.

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