by Ian Mann
September 10, 2019
Richardson's hard bop leanings are again very much in evidence, but there is also a growing sophistication about the writing and a more overt John Coltrane influence this time round.
Leo Richardson Quartet
(Ubuntu Music UBU0026)
Leo Richardson – tenor sax, Rick Simpson – piano, Tim Thornton – bass, Ed Richardson – drums
with guest Alex Garnett – tenor sax on track 8
“Move” is the second album from tenor sax specialist Leo Richardson, and represents the follow up to his highly successful 2017 début for Ubuntu, “The Chase”.
Like Scott Hamilton and Simon Spillett Richardson is a saxophonist in thrall to an earlier age, in this case the golden era of hard bop and particularly the output of the Blue Note and Prestige record labels. Richardson cites jazz immortals such as drummer Art Blakey, pianist Horace Silver and saxophonists Joe Henderson, Dexter Gordon and John Coltrane as primary influences on his own playing.
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. Jim Richardson acts as Leo’s co-producer on “Move”, acting as part of a production team that also includes recording engineers Lester Salmins, Alex Bonney and John Webber.
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 he 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.
In 2017 Leo Richardson released the first album by his regular jazz quartet featuring pianist Rick Simpson, bassist Mark Lewandowski and drummer Ed Richardson, apparently no relation. “The Chase” also featured guest appearances by trumpeter Quentin Collins and Richardson’s fellow tenor man, and another significant influence, the great Alan Skidmore.
Album review here; http://www.thejazzmann.com/reviews/review/leo-richardson-quartet-the-chase/
Skidmore provides the liner notes this time round while the guest slot goes to the leading contemporary tenor saxophonist Alex Garnett. There’s also one change to the regular quartet line up with Tim Thornton taking over bass duties from Mark Lewandowski.
Thornton was already in the band when I reviewed the quartet’s performance at Kenilworth Jazz Club in December 2017. The second set included a number of what were then ‘new tunes’ and several of these appear on this second album. My account of the quartet’s Kenilworth show can be read here;
Admirers of Richardson’s début won’t be disappointed by this new recording, which sees the saxophonist continuing to hone his approach and develop his sound. He says of his latest release;
“The compositions on ‘Move’ are very much a natural progression from the first album. The music has developed and matured, whilst instilling the essence of hard bop but remaining more contemporary and moving in different directions. The title ‘Move’ means just this! The music is very much in the hard bop vein but exploring newer contemporary avenues as a band and compositionally”.
“I never thought I’d release my second album so soon after the first, but I just love playing with this band, so I thought why not?! The rhythm section in this quartet is absolutely world class and I’m very lucky to be able to play my music with them and develop it as a band.”
The Latin-esque opener “The Demise” gets things off to a rousing start with Richardson digging in with some Coltrane-esque tenor while Simpson impresses with a feverishly inventive piano solo. There’s also something of a feature for Ed Richardson at the drums as he plays the Elvin Jones role. At Kenilworth Richardson informed us that the tune title was inspired by “the folly of our current world leaders”. Little seems to have changed in the intervening two years, if anything it’s got even worse!
It’s all enough to provoke a bout of “Effin, & Jeffin”, the title of another tune that was played at Kenilworth. A rolling piano figure sets the scene before Richardson again probes deeply and incisively on tenor with further solos coming from Simpson on piano and the always impressive Thornton at the bass. The vitality of the quartet’s reading of this tune at Kenilworth was particularly noteworthy and they bring similar qualities to this energetic and powerful recorded version.
“Martini Shuffle” combines a boppish theme with swinging, hard driving rhythms and includes fluent and confident solos from Richardson on tenor, Simpson on piano and Thornton at the bass.
Title track “Move” embraces more of a modal, contemporary feel while still remaining true to the hard bop virtues. The versatile Simpson, recently seen at Brecon Jazz Festival with saxophonist Karen Sharp, leads off the solos on piano, his inventiveness paving the way for a major statement on tenor from the leader.
The ballad “E.F.G.”, written for Richardson’s wife Liz (rather than the sponsors of London Jazz Festival!) signals a welcome change of mood and pace following the intensity of the first four pieces. It is ushered in by a passage of lyrical solo piano from Simpson and also features the melodic bass playing of Thornton. In his liner notes Skidmore justifiably compares the ballad playing of Leo Richardson with that of Dexter Gordon. Meanwhile Ed Richardson’s delicate brush work emphasises his empathy and sensitivity.
As its title suggests the lively, be-boppish “Mr. Tim” offers a showcase for the dexterous and agile bass soloing of Tim Thornton. He takes the first solo, followed by a fluent Richardson on tenor and an exuberant Simpson at the piano. Meanwhile Ed Richardson gets to enjoy a series of invigorating drum breaks.
Another pause for breath with the medium tempo ballad “Peace”, which sees Richardson combining tenderness with great technical and improvisational facility as he stretches out at length on tenor. He’s followed on piano by the ever imaginative Simpson.
The album concludes with the cunningly titled “Second Wind”, which features the additional tenor saxophone of guest Alex Garnett, one of Richardson’s pals from his regular gigs at Ronnie Scott’s. This is an old fashioned, high octane, hugely enjoyable two tenor tear up with the two horn men exchanging phrases and solos over the fiercely swinging grooves generated by Simpson, Thornton and Ed Richardson. At one juncture Simpson drops out and the two saxophonists joust good naturedly, exchanging phrases above a backdrop of roiling drums.
Simpson subsequently comes into his own with a rollicking piano solo and Ed Richardson features strongly towards the close.
Those who enjoyed “The Chase” will no doubt relish Richardson’s second offering. Those hard bop leanings are again very much in evidence, but there is also a growing sophistication about the writing and a more overt John Coltrane influence this time round.
The playing from all concerned is excellent throughout with Thornton fitting seamlessly into the band after playing the whole of the extensive 2017 tour.
Although it’s impossible to reproduce the impact of the début the new album has again been very well received by the jazz press and the Leo Richardson Quartet remains a hugely exciting and highly popular live draw.blog comments powered by Disqus