The Jazz Mann | Leo Richardson Quartet - Leo Richardson Quartet, Kenilworth Jazz Club, Kenilworth Rugby Club, Kenilworth, Warwicks.  04/12/17 | Review | The Jazz Mann

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Leo Richardson Quartet - Leo Richardson Quartet, Kenilworth Jazz Club, Kenilworth Rugby Club, Kenilworth, Warwicks.  04/12/17 Rating: 3-5 out of 5 An excellent and very enjoyable evening featuring some top quality music.

LEO RICHARDSON QUARTET, KENILWORTH JAZZ CLUB, KENILWORTH RUGBY CLUB, KENILWORTH, WARWICKSHIRE, 04/12/2017.

Tonight marked my second visit to Kenilworth Jazz Club, the first being a visit to review an excellent performance by alto saxophonist and composer Camilla George and her quartet back in February 2017, Review here;
http://www.thejazzmann.com/reviews/review/camilla-george-quartet-kenilworth-jazz-club-kenilworth-rugby-club-kenilwort/

Once again my thanks go to organiser Dave Logan and his colleagues for making me so welcome and for providing press tickets for my wife and I.  The Jazz Club meets once a month at KRFC and presents a varied programme featuring Midlands based musicians plus nationally known touring bands such as tonight’s quartet. I was very impressed with the set up with the Club producing a free programme for each event including brief biographical details of the night’s act as well as advertising events at neighbouring jazz clubs in Leamington, Coventry and Stratford Upon Avon. It was good to see this spirit of mutual co-operation, it’s not unknown for promoters to view nearby clubs as rivals. 

In October 2017 I reviewed “The Chase”, the début album by tenor saxophonist and composer Leo Richardson and was very impressed by what I heard.  The Kenilworth date was part of a national tour to promote the album and having enjoyed the recording so much I determined to check out the group live. I wasn’t about to be disappointed.

Leo Richardson is the son of the celebrated British bassist Jim Richardson, one time leader of the fondly remembered band Pogo and an in demand sideman who has worked with many of the greats of the music including the late trumpeter and vocalist Chet Baker.

It was Jim Richardson who first introduced the young Leo to jazz, nurturing his interest in, and love of, the music. Leo subsequently studied jazz at the Trinity School of Music in London where his tutors included Jean Toussaint, Julian Siegel, Mark Lockheart, Martin Speake and Mick Foster. Leo graduated from Trinity in 2013 with a First Class Honours Degree in Jazz Performance.

Besides leading his own quartet Leo Richardson has also become an in demand sideman who has worked with an impressive array of jazz and pop artists, including Kylie Minogue, Jamie Cullum, Gregory Porter, Wet Wet Wet, Heritage Orchestra, Candi Staton, John Newman, Ella Eyre, Jessie Ware, The BBC Proms, Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Orchestra, Submotion Orchestra, Ronan Keating, Blue, Peter Andre, Mulatu Astatke, Anne-Marie, Clare Teal, Roger Taylor (Queen), Toyah Wilcox, Il Divo,The Heliocentrics, Ben Sidran, Elaine Delmar, Vula Malinga, Alan Skidmore, Dick Pearce, Norma Winstone, Gary Husband, Simon Purcell, Andrew McCormack and Jim Mullen. It’s quite a list, and by no means comprehensive.

The personnel on “The Chase” includes a core quartet featuring Rick Simpson on piano, Mark Lewandowski on double bass and Ed Richardson (no relation) at the drums. The album also includes guest appearances by trumpeter Quentin Collins and Richardson’s fellow tenor specialist, the great Alan Skidmore. The music consists of eight original tunes by Richardson, unashamedly written in the hard bop style with Leo citing the influence of drummer Art Blakey, pianist Horace Silver and saxophonists Joe Henderson, Dexter Gordon and John Coltrane.

The artwork for “The Chase” contains the Coltrane quote “You’ve got to look back at the old things and see them in a new light”. Essentially this is exactly what Richardson does, offering the following explanation regarding his inspirations and working methods;
“I am extremely drawn to jazz music of the late 1950s and early 1960s. I never set out to create a new genre or style or to innovate. I wanted to regenerate the spirit of the music that I love but with a modern injection from contemporary musicians who are stunning players in their own right. I feel that some contemporary jazz has lost the spirit of swing and the exciting American vibe that I’m so drawn to. I wanted to recapture this style in a contemporary setting in order to rejuvenate the scene with memorable melodies, ferocious tempos, hard swing and exciting interaction”.

The quartet that Richardson brought to Kenilworth included Simpson and Ed Richardson with the highly accomplished and very experienced Tim Thornton replacing Lewandowski on double bass. Thornton has been on board for the whole tour and was totally attuned to the group aesthetic, linking up well with Ed Richardson to supply the necessary rhythmic propulsion while also impressing with a number of fluent and dexterous solos.

The quartet kicked off with “The Curve”, a tune sourced from the début album, with its hooky, ‘Sidewinder-ish’ theme and Latinesque rhythms. The recorded version features Leo Richardson trading solos with Simpson and Collins in a convincing updating of the classic ‘Blue Note sound’. Tonight’s performance also included excellent features for Thornton on bass and Ed Richardson at the drums. The only downside was the rather muddy sound of Simpson’s Nord keyboard, a rather poor substitute for the grand piano at Ronnie Scott’s, this quartet’s spiritual home where they regularly play the Late, Late Show. My observation is not a reflection on Simpson’s musicianship, his soloing was exciting, inventive and imaginative throughout the evening and, to be fair, the sound of the actual instrument seemed to improve as the evening went on.

Next up was the blues “Demon E”, another tune from the quartet’s album. Backed by a gently swinging groove courtesy of Thornton and Ed Richardson Leo stated the theme before handing over to Simpson to take the first solo. Leo later stretched out more expansively and there was also a feature for Thornton who demonstrated something of that fluency and dexterity alluded to previously. The recorded version is another piece to include a trumpet solo from the excellent Collins.

“Blues For Joe”, dedicated to the great Joe Henderson, opens the album and proved to be a fast paced, attention grabbing composition with a complex but catchy theme. Leo’s opening statement was followed by a solo from Thornton before the leader took over on tenor, probing powerfully and deeply before eventually handing over to Simpson.

The ballad “Elisha’s Song”, a delightful dedication to Leo Richardson’s three year old niece was introduced by a passage of unaccompanied piano from Simpson, to which languid double bass and gently brushed drums were eventually added. Taking musical inspiration from the ballad playing of Dexter Gordon Leo’s solo was both tender and authoritative, a superlative example of the balladeer’s art. Simpson then took over with a more conventional piano solo before the piece resolved itself with a solo saxophone cadenza from Leo Richardson.

Also from the album came “Mambo”, which was introduced by a passage of unaccompanied bass from Thornton that included some supremely intricate work around the bridge of the instrument. The crowd at Kenilworth were totally silent as they listened attentively, this was a genuinely knowledgeable and appreciative jazz club audience. Thornton eventually picked out the motif that signalled the arrival of the rest of the band, the lively Latin-esque rhythms then fuelling a tenor solo from Leo Richardson that combined power and fluency in a manner reminiscent of John Coltrane in full flight. Equally engaging was Simpson’s piano feature, which included an exciting dialogue with the busy drumming of Ed Richardson.

Having got the audience fully on side the quartet closed the first set with a new tune titled “The Demise”, a title inspired by “the folly of our current world leaders” as Leo explained, eliciting a small cheer from the crowd. Musically the piece seemed to hark back to a happier time with its embracing of old fashioned jazz virtues from the bebop and hard bop eras, with powerful, feverish solos coming from Leo Richardson and Rick Simpson on tenor and piano respectively.

The second set, which for my money was even better than the first, included a greater percentage of newer, as yet unrecorded material. Among these items was the opener “Shake”, which combined bluesy, r’n’b flavoured tenor with hard driving rhythms containing a hint of funk in the muscular grooves. Solos here came from Leo Richardson, Simpson and Thornton with Ed Richardson enjoying a series of fiery drum breaks towards the close.

Another new piece, “Effin’ and Jeffin’” raised the energy levels still further with Leo Richardson receiving a spontaneous round of applause for his opening theme statement, even before he, Simpson and Thornton got stuck into the solos. Apparently this was only the fifth time the quartet has performed this piece live, the others presumably being earlier on in the tour. The freshness of the piece was made evident by the vitality of the performances.

A third new tune, “Espresso Martini” aka “The Martini Shuffle” was inspired by the coffee flavoured cocktails used by the quartet members to keep themselves awake at those Ronnie’s Late Shows. And there was to be no nodding off on another piece that combined a slippery, boppish theme with driving rhythms with Thornton leading off the solos followed by Leo Richardson and Simpson.

Not all of Leo’s new material is energetic and frenetic. A new tune simply titled “Peace” was this set’s ballad with warmly melodic solos from Leo on tenor and Thornton on the bass.

Returning to the album we heard “Silver Lining”, a Leo Richardson composition inspired by the writing and playing of pianist Horace Silver. With its hard bop roots and a melodic hook that Horace himself would have been proud of the piece was a vehicle for powerful solos from Simpson and Leo Richardson with Thornton and Ed Richardson enjoying a series of vigorous bass and drum exchanges.

After thanking the audience members for their attentiveness Leo announced that the quartet’s final number would be “The Chase” , the title track from the recently released album that has been named by the Sunday Times as one of the top ten jazz albums of the year and which also made their top hundred for albums of all genres – a list dominated by rock and pop one would imagine.
With a title alluding to the tenor sax ‘chases’ of the past and a rapid, complex, boppish theme this was a final outpouring of energy from the group with Simpson opening the solos. Richardson’s impassioned, turbo-charged playing was sometimes reminiscent of his mentor Alan Skidmore as he soled at length and engaged in dialogue with his namesake at the drums. Ed Richardson’s own dynamic drum feature was a triumph of skill and stamina in an explosive solo that drew whoops of approval from the crowd.

During the course of an excellent evening’s music making we had heard virtually all of the quartet’s début album plus no fewer than five new tunes, the quality of which bodes well for the follow up. If anything the quartet seemed more engaged with the new material, investing it with even greater levels of energy and vitality than the album tracks. In fact the only piece from the album that we didn’t hear was the closing track, the ten minute “Mr. Skid”, Leo Richardson’s epic tenor sax “battle” with his mentor, Alan Skidmore.

This had been a thoroughly enjoyable and engaging performance from Leo Richardson and his quartet. Sharply suited, and indeed booted, the stylish young Mr. Richardson and his band have been introducing their hard bop inspired sound to a young London jazz crowd and have won great acclaim for their efforts. But their love of conventional jazz virtues ensures that they appeal to older, more traditional jazz audiences too and the function room at KRFC played host to around sixty people tonight, comfortably filling a performance space that is ideally suited to small group jazz of all persuasions. On the evidence of both the Camilla George and Leo Richardson performances Kenilworth Jazz Club is a thriving, community minded entity and once more I offer both my thanks and congratulations to Dave Logan and his team. Thanks also to Leo and the guys for speaking with me at the end of an excellent and very enjoyable evening featuring some top quality music.

 

Leo Richardson Quartet, Kenilworth Jazz Club, Kenilworth Rugby Club, Kenilworth, Warwicks.  04/12/17

Leo Richardson Quartet

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Reviewed by: Ian Mann

Live Review

3-5 out of 5

Leo Richardson Quartet, Kenilworth Jazz Club, Kenilworth Rugby Club, Kenilworth, Warwicks.  04/12/17

An excellent and very enjoyable evening featuring some top quality music.

LEO RICHARDSON QUARTET, KENILWORTH JAZZ CLUB, KENILWORTH RUGBY CLUB, KENILWORTH, WARWICKSHIRE, 04/12/2017.

Tonight marked my second visit to Kenilworth Jazz Club, the first being a visit to review an excellent performance by alto saxophonist and composer Camilla George and her quartet back in February 2017, Review here;
http://www.thejazzmann.com/reviews/review/camilla-george-quartet-kenilworth-jazz-club-kenilworth-rugby-club-kenilwort/

Once again my thanks go to organiser Dave Logan and his colleagues for making me so welcome and for providing press tickets for my wife and I.  The Jazz Club meets once a month at KRFC and presents a varied programme featuring Midlands based musicians plus nationally known touring bands such as tonight’s quartet. I was very impressed with the set up with the Club producing a free programme for each event including brief biographical details of the night’s act as well as advertising events at neighbouring jazz clubs in Leamington, Coventry and Stratford Upon Avon. It was good to see this spirit of mutual co-operation, it’s not unknown for promoters to view nearby clubs as rivals. 

In October 2017 I reviewed “The Chase”, the début album by tenor saxophonist and composer Leo Richardson and was very impressed by what I heard.  The Kenilworth date was part of a national tour to promote the album and having enjoyed the recording so much I determined to check out the group live. I wasn’t about to be disappointed.

Leo Richardson is the son of the celebrated British bassist Jim Richardson, one time leader of the fondly remembered band Pogo and an in demand sideman who has worked with many of the greats of the music including the late trumpeter and vocalist Chet Baker.

It was Jim Richardson who first introduced the young Leo to jazz, nurturing his interest in, and love of, the music. Leo subsequently studied jazz at the Trinity School of Music in London where his tutors included Jean Toussaint, Julian Siegel, Mark Lockheart, Martin Speake and Mick Foster. Leo graduated from Trinity in 2013 with a First Class Honours Degree in Jazz Performance.

Besides leading his own quartet Leo Richardson has also become an in demand sideman who has worked with an impressive array of jazz and pop artists, including Kylie Minogue, Jamie Cullum, Gregory Porter, Wet Wet Wet, Heritage Orchestra, Candi Staton, John Newman, Ella Eyre, Jessie Ware, The BBC Proms, Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Orchestra, Submotion Orchestra, Ronan Keating, Blue, Peter Andre, Mulatu Astatke, Anne-Marie, Clare Teal, Roger Taylor (Queen), Toyah Wilcox, Il Divo,The Heliocentrics, Ben Sidran, Elaine Delmar, Vula Malinga, Alan Skidmore, Dick Pearce, Norma Winstone, Gary Husband, Simon Purcell, Andrew McCormack and Jim Mullen. It’s quite a list, and by no means comprehensive.

The personnel on “The Chase” includes a core quartet featuring Rick Simpson on piano, Mark Lewandowski on double bass and Ed Richardson (no relation) at the drums. The album also includes guest appearances by trumpeter Quentin Collins and Richardson’s fellow tenor specialist, the great Alan Skidmore. The music consists of eight original tunes by Richardson, unashamedly written in the hard bop style with Leo citing the influence of drummer Art Blakey, pianist Horace Silver and saxophonists Joe Henderson, Dexter Gordon and John Coltrane.

The artwork for “The Chase” contains the Coltrane quote “You’ve got to look back at the old things and see them in a new light”. Essentially this is exactly what Richardson does, offering the following explanation regarding his inspirations and working methods;
“I am extremely drawn to jazz music of the late 1950s and early 1960s. I never set out to create a new genre or style or to innovate. I wanted to regenerate the spirit of the music that I love but with a modern injection from contemporary musicians who are stunning players in their own right. I feel that some contemporary jazz has lost the spirit of swing and the exciting American vibe that I’m so drawn to. I wanted to recapture this style in a contemporary setting in order to rejuvenate the scene with memorable melodies, ferocious tempos, hard swing and exciting interaction”.

The quartet that Richardson brought to Kenilworth included Simpson and Ed Richardson with the highly accomplished and very experienced Tim Thornton replacing Lewandowski on double bass. Thornton has been on board for the whole tour and was totally attuned to the group aesthetic, linking up well with Ed Richardson to supply the necessary rhythmic propulsion while also impressing with a number of fluent and dexterous solos.

The quartet kicked off with “The Curve”, a tune sourced from the début album, with its hooky, ‘Sidewinder-ish’ theme and Latinesque rhythms. The recorded version features Leo Richardson trading solos with Simpson and Collins in a convincing updating of the classic ‘Blue Note sound’. Tonight’s performance also included excellent features for Thornton on bass and Ed Richardson at the drums. The only downside was the rather muddy sound of Simpson’s Nord keyboard, a rather poor substitute for the grand piano at Ronnie Scott’s, this quartet’s spiritual home where they regularly play the Late, Late Show. My observation is not a reflection on Simpson’s musicianship, his soloing was exciting, inventive and imaginative throughout the evening and, to be fair, the sound of the actual instrument seemed to improve as the evening went on.

Next up was the blues “Demon E”, another tune from the quartet’s album. Backed by a gently swinging groove courtesy of Thornton and Ed Richardson Leo stated the theme before handing over to Simpson to take the first solo. Leo later stretched out more expansively and there was also a feature for Thornton who demonstrated something of that fluency and dexterity alluded to previously. The recorded version is another piece to include a trumpet solo from the excellent Collins.

“Blues For Joe”, dedicated to the great Joe Henderson, opens the album and proved to be a fast paced, attention grabbing composition with a complex but catchy theme. Leo’s opening statement was followed by a solo from Thornton before the leader took over on tenor, probing powerfully and deeply before eventually handing over to Simpson.

The ballad “Elisha’s Song”, a delightful dedication to Leo Richardson’s three year old niece was introduced by a passage of unaccompanied piano from Simpson, to which languid double bass and gently brushed drums were eventually added. Taking musical inspiration from the ballad playing of Dexter Gordon Leo’s solo was both tender and authoritative, a superlative example of the balladeer’s art. Simpson then took over with a more conventional piano solo before the piece resolved itself with a solo saxophone cadenza from Leo Richardson.

Also from the album came “Mambo”, which was introduced by a passage of unaccompanied bass from Thornton that included some supremely intricate work around the bridge of the instrument. The crowd at Kenilworth were totally silent as they listened attentively, this was a genuinely knowledgeable and appreciative jazz club audience. Thornton eventually picked out the motif that signalled the arrival of the rest of the band, the lively Latin-esque rhythms then fuelling a tenor solo from Leo Richardson that combined power and fluency in a manner reminiscent of John Coltrane in full flight. Equally engaging was Simpson’s piano feature, which included an exciting dialogue with the busy drumming of Ed Richardson.

Having got the audience fully on side the quartet closed the first set with a new tune titled “The Demise”, a title inspired by “the folly of our current world leaders” as Leo explained, eliciting a small cheer from the crowd. Musically the piece seemed to hark back to a happier time with its embracing of old fashioned jazz virtues from the bebop and hard bop eras, with powerful, feverish solos coming from Leo Richardson and Rick Simpson on tenor and piano respectively.

The second set, which for my money was even better than the first, included a greater percentage of newer, as yet unrecorded material. Among these items was the opener “Shake”, which combined bluesy, r’n’b flavoured tenor with hard driving rhythms containing a hint of funk in the muscular grooves. Solos here came from Leo Richardson, Simpson and Thornton with Ed Richardson enjoying a series of fiery drum breaks towards the close.

Another new piece, “Effin’ and Jeffin’” raised the energy levels still further with Leo Richardson receiving a spontaneous round of applause for his opening theme statement, even before he, Simpson and Thornton got stuck into the solos. Apparently this was only the fifth time the quartet has performed this piece live, the others presumably being earlier on in the tour. The freshness of the piece was made evident by the vitality of the performances.

A third new tune, “Espresso Martini” aka “The Martini Shuffle” was inspired by the coffee flavoured cocktails used by the quartet members to keep themselves awake at those Ronnie’s Late Shows. And there was to be no nodding off on another piece that combined a slippery, boppish theme with driving rhythms with Thornton leading off the solos followed by Leo Richardson and Simpson.

Not all of Leo’s new material is energetic and frenetic. A new tune simply titled “Peace” was this set’s ballad with warmly melodic solos from Leo on tenor and Thornton on the bass.

Returning to the album we heard “Silver Lining”, a Leo Richardson composition inspired by the writing and playing of pianist Horace Silver. With its hard bop roots and a melodic hook that Horace himself would have been proud of the piece was a vehicle for powerful solos from Simpson and Leo Richardson with Thornton and Ed Richardson enjoying a series of vigorous bass and drum exchanges.

After thanking the audience members for their attentiveness Leo announced that the quartet’s final number would be “The Chase” , the title track from the recently released album that has been named by the Sunday Times as one of the top ten jazz albums of the year and which also made their top hundred for albums of all genres – a list dominated by rock and pop one would imagine.
With a title alluding to the tenor sax ‘chases’ of the past and a rapid, complex, boppish theme this was a final outpouring of energy from the group with Simpson opening the solos. Richardson’s impassioned, turbo-charged playing was sometimes reminiscent of his mentor Alan Skidmore as he soled at length and engaged in dialogue with his namesake at the drums. Ed Richardson’s own dynamic drum feature was a triumph of skill and stamina in an explosive solo that drew whoops of approval from the crowd.

During the course of an excellent evening’s music making we had heard virtually all of the quartet’s début album plus no fewer than five new tunes, the quality of which bodes well for the follow up. If anything the quartet seemed more engaged with the new material, investing it with even greater levels of energy and vitality than the album tracks. In fact the only piece from the album that we didn’t hear was the closing track, the ten minute “Mr. Skid”, Leo Richardson’s epic tenor sax “battle” with his mentor, Alan Skidmore.

This had been a thoroughly enjoyable and engaging performance from Leo Richardson and his quartet. Sharply suited, and indeed booted, the stylish young Mr. Richardson and his band have been introducing their hard bop inspired sound to a young London jazz crowd and have won great acclaim for their efforts. But their love of conventional jazz virtues ensures that they appeal to older, more traditional jazz audiences too and the function room at KRFC played host to around sixty people tonight, comfortably filling a performance space that is ideally suited to small group jazz of all persuasions. On the evidence of both the Camilla George and Leo Richardson performances Kenilworth Jazz Club is a thriving, community minded entity and once more I offer both my thanks and congratulations to Dave Logan and his team. Thanks also to Leo and the guys for speaking with me at the end of an excellent and very enjoyable evening featuring some top quality music.

 


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