Album Reviews

Logan Richardson

Shift

Artist:     Logan Richardson

Album:     Shift

Label:     Blue Note

Release Date:     02/26/2016

89

Every so often a young jazz alto saxophonist emerges that just completely stuns you with attitude, technique, imagination, or, in Richardson’s case, the total package. Arthur Blythe certainly comes to mind for his melodic approach, unique instrumentation and blending with electric instruments. Kenny Garrett continues to demonstrate his incredible technique and composition skills as both a sideman and a leader. We now welcome 36-year-old Logan Richardson, making his debut on Blue Note, following two smaller label releases. Richardson hails from Kansas City, spent considerable time in New York, and now resides in Paris. He has his self-described “dream band” aboard for these sessions, including guitarist Pat Metheny, pianist Jason Moran, bassist Harish Raghavan and drummer Nasheet Waits. Richardson penned all tunes, save a cover of Bruno Mars’ “Locked Out of Heaven.”

Mostly, this quintet creates a very dense sound, tempered by some utterly beautiful moments, especially with Moran at the acoustic piano. Richardson is at heart an improviser, playing lots of notes while seeking the support of Metheny’s guitar which often blends beautifully, and Moran’s piano which usually adds a needed contrast. Thinking of reference points, I go to Michael Brecker’s (a tenor player) Tales of the Hudson, which had similar instrumentation, including Metheny’s guitar. The super group, Five Peace Band, featuring Chick Corea, John McLaughlin and Kenny Garrett also comes to mind. Somehow, though, Richardson’s sound is a bit more mysterious, heavier, and at times more exhilarating than those outings.

Metheny’s signature guitar sound and effects are prominent throughout, and seem to really spur some energetic solos from Richardson, especially on “Creeper” and “In Your Next Life.” “Slow” begins with gorgeous piano from Moran and evolves into some explorative, crescendo- building moments in Richardson’s soloing. It takes a strong rhythm section to provide restraint to the improvising soloists: Metheny, Moran and Richardson. The best example of this is perhaps on “Imagine,” where their control keeps it from becoming chaotic. The album is a heady effort, appropriately entitled, as it is forward moving but taken to different levels throughout. Importantly, Richardson has one of the most exciting new sounds in jazz in the last ten-fifteen years. He also plays in the Next Collective, a group of eight young, adventurous jazz musicians.  You may also want to check out their album, Cover Art.

-Jim Hynes

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