SLCTrib Article: Street Musician Gets Early Christmas Present

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This story is brought to you from the Salt Lake Tribune, but I thought that it would be cheery for all to read. Talk about Christmas spirit! I have personally heard Eli Potash perform while waiting to go to the movies in SLC and he is truly a great musician!


(Steve Griffin | The Salt Lake Tribune) Street musician Eli Potash plays his new cello outside the Broadway theaters in Salt Lake City Wednesday. A local jazz trio gave him the cello and a new case.

By Sean P. Means
The Salt Lake Tribune

Eli Potash is modest about his music. “I’m not that good a musician,” said Potash, a 59-year-old street musician. “You know what I am? Good with my hands.”

For 15 years, Potash’s hands have produced soulful sounds on a beat-up cello in downtown Salt Lake City. Recognizable by his perpetual shaggy beard and knit cap, he’s often seen playing for moviegoers outside downtown’s Broadway Centre Cinemas at 111 E. 300 South.

Now Potash has a new instrument, thanks to the generosity of a local jazz trio. “He’s really talented, you know,” said Daniel Day, drummer and leader of the Daniel Day Trio, which plays regular gigs in downtown Salt Lake City clubs. “His music, it just gets in your soul.”

Day and his band mates, bass player Dave Bowen and guitarist Mike Sasich, often run into Potash around downtown, lugging around his old cello. Occasionally, Potash ducks in from the cold to rest at The Red Door, a martini bar where Day’s trio frequently plays. “We hang out and shoot the breeze,” Day said Wednesday. “We talk about music, talk about wherever.”

One encounter prompted Bowen to remember his extra cello, which was just collecting dust. The band collected donations from listeners to buy a new instrument case and then received donated labor to refurbish it. “He’s somebody who could use some love and some care and some thought,” Day said.

On a windy night last month, the trio played a short jam session with Potash in front of the Broadway. A rendition of “Silent Night” was captured on video by Sidewinder Media’s Rusty Sessions, which has been posted on YouTube. At the completion of the song, the trio presented Potash with the new cello.

On Wednesday, Potash said his new cello plays really well, but he declined to try to describe the sound. “I’m not an acoustic engineer, I just play one on TV,” he said, drawing upon one of his favorite jokes, which he offered in four variations during a 10-minute interview.

“It’s a variety show, that’s what I do,” Potash said of his performances outside the Broadway, which he times to movie showings — so he can catch filmgoers before and after screenings.

Sometimes he tries to match the music to the movies playing. But mostly, he works by intuition.

“You play the space, you play the instrument, you play the people, and you play your own nervous system. You play yourself. But I’m not a neurologist — I just play one on TV.”

Day hopes the gift will serve as an example of Christmas spirit. “Christmas isn’t much of anything anymore, unless people are doing something like that,” he said.

spmeans@sltrib.com

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