Canadian-born, California-based trumpeter Steph Richards is known from her work with pioneering artists ranging from Henry Threadgill, Anthony Braxton and John Zorn to Yoko Ono, David Byrne and St. Vincent. She released last year her acclaimed debut album «Fullmoon» (Relative Pitch, 2018) (read the review on salt-peanuts.eu HERE, where she blended beautifully her experimental aesthetics with engaging song forms. She follows with a completely different statement, an acoustic jazz quartet that offers a lyric poem to New York City, «Take The Neon Lights». The eight pieces on the new album are inspired by poems that evoke and reflect the ugliness and beauty of New York, written by literary icons Maya Angelou, Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, with the title track of set to Langston Hughes’ «JukeBox Love Song».
The new acoustic quartet features pianist James Carney, bassist Sam Minaie and drummer Andrew Munsey, but is far from being a conventional jazz group. Richards is an ambitious and unorthodox composer that rarely follows common compositional ideas or linear narratives and has a highly personal complex and very rhythmic language. She is gifted with strong sound, tone and phrasing of her own, commands an array of extended techniques and likes to to take risks with her improvisations. And she still attach some effects to her trumpet, but much more subtle ones this time.
Richards shapes the nature of each piece through searching and sculpting the right palette of sounds while conversing with herself. Often she does so as a kind of kind of intuitive rhythmic play that demands the quartet to adapt immediately to her sudden attacks and constant exploration of the trumpet and flugelhorn sonorities. The quartet balances its interplay between segments that leave Richards forming alone the flow of the pieces as on the emotional, concise «Rumor of War» (a line from Angelou’s poem «Awake in New York») and «All The Years of Our Lives», adding only a minimalist envelope, and other, more playful and complex ones – «Brooklyn Machines», the most jazz-oriented and linear piece «Skull of Theatres» and the poetic «Stalked by Tall Buildings», where the whole quartet expands and comments on her gestures.
Stephanie Richards (tp, flh), James Carney (p), Sam Minaie (b), Andrew Munsey (dr)