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«Power Vibe»

Power Vibes is the fifth album of American trumpeter-composer Steph Richards as a bandleader and introduces a sonic innovation – sensory electronics, generative AI that produces subtle but compelling textures and tactile rhythms triggered by drum-mounted sensors, and operated by drummer Max Jaffe. Richards is accompanied by pianist Joshua White ((who recorded a duo album with Richards, Zephyr, Relative Pitch, 2021), bassist Stomu Takeishi (who played in Richards’ Suspense, Northern Spy, 2020) and master drummer Gerald Cleaver. The album was recorded at Bunker Studios in Brooklyn in July 2019 and at Studio A in La Jolla, California in August 2023. Andrew Munsey, who recorded and co-produced her previous albums, was in charge of this task again.

The six pieces of Power Vibes are built around a series of musical cues that, when played, redirect all the players to move into a new structure. Furthermore, the focus of this album is an adventurous yet totally democratic distribution of compositional and improvised power. All the musicians can play one of these cues at any time, ensuring that the music unfolds in an even more radically democratic way than in free and open-ended improvisations.

The focus on the distribution of power and the addition of grooves triggered by sensory electronics may sound like a recipe for chaotic dynamics but Power Vibes offers a soulful kind of aural hyper-lucidity throughout Power Vibes. Richards knows where she wants to lead her band through nuanced story-like dramas, has a commanding, playful sound of her own and an arresting lyrical touch; White anchors the dense commotion in post-bop, McCoy Tyner-ian rapture (especially in the title piece, dedicated to Wayne Shorter); and Cleaver, Jaffe and Takeishi structure layered and infectious rhythmic patterns. The live version of «Supersense», the title piece of Richards’s previous album (Northern Spy, 2020), captures best the great vibes of Richards and her band.

Eyal Hareuveni

Steph Richards (trumpet, flugelhorn), Joshua White (piano), Stomu Takeishi (bass, electric bass guitars), Gerald Cleaver (drums), Max Jaffe (sensory electronics, drums)