Album Remarks & Appraisals:
Logan Richardson's new album SHIFT will be released by Blue Note Records on 2/26. The band includes leader/composer/saxophonist Logan Richardson, guitarist Pat Metheny, pianist Jason Moran, bassist Harish Raghavan & drummer Nasheet Waits. The mood of this album clearly is a statement that acknowledges the tradition of improvised music, while strongly asserting new ideas, styles, perspectives, & formulas into the mix. US tour dates to support coming Spring 2016.
Personnel: Logan Richardson (alto saxophone); Pat Metheny (guitar); Jason Moran (piano, Fender Rhodes piano); Nasheet Waits (drums).
Audio Mixer: Seth Presant.
Liner Note Author: Logan Richardson.
Recording information: Sear Sound Recording Studios, New York (12/04/2013/12/03/2013).
Shift, Logan Richardson's Blue Note debut, fulfills the promise offered on the alto saxophonist's two previous albums. On 2007's Cerebral Flow and 2008's Ethos, he seemed more invested in compositional acumen than improvisational flow and was somewhat restrained. Not so here. Richardson surrounds himself with a heavyweight band that no doubt tested his mettle: drummer Nasheet Waits, Jason Moran on piano and Rhodes, bassist Harish Raghavan, and guitarist Pat Metheny -- who makes a rare appearance in a sideman role. Ten of these 11 tunes are the saxophonist's, all artfully articulating his complex harmonic and rhythmic ideas that bridge the frontiers of modern creative jazz and his native Kansas City's traditions. All are deeply melodic, yet refuse to be reined in by rhythmic constraints. "Mind Free" begins tentatively with luxuriant atmospheric textures, but unhurriedly opens onto wide harmonic vistas while never losing an innate sense of groove. Metheny joins in unwrapping the melodic line before Richardson's solo -- equal parts post-bop, soul, and blues -- flows with strident yet breezy confidence. Moran's solo gently teases open the harmony before giving way to Metheny's more aggressive, knotty extrapolations. "Creeper" initially offers a lithe Latin tinge. Moran, playing Rhodes, colors in Richardson's soulful lyric as Metheny lays down chunky chords and vamps before Waits adds double-timed breaks and, with Raghavan driving the accents, prompts the band on toward more open terrain. "Slow" begins as a dirge but transforms -- in no small part due to Metheny's gritty, rockist soloing -- into a sprint, with fleet-fingered runs from Moran as the rhythm section whirls around the three principals. The denser "Imagine" offers multiple melodic lines, all enfolding one another from the inside; the interplay between Richardson and the guitarist is breathtaking. Bruno Mars' "Locked Out of Heaven" -- the lone cover -- is inside out, full of shadows and crevices painted by Moran's spaced-out chords and runs. The collective finds itself illuminating the tune's dark harmonics and discovers new expression there. Closer "Untitled" commences as a midtempo ballad with glorious playing from Raghavan and Waits. As Richardson and Metheny play two phrases in repetition, Moran adds dimension and texture; his playing is at once silky, ambiguous, and exploratory. It creates a bridge between Metheny's increasingly taut, rock-flavored roughness and Richardson's innate bluesy swing. Eventually, they end up somewhere else together, a pronounced elastic beat providing support, so the inexact yet hummable structure accompanies the fine soloing even as the tune collapses on itself. Richardson clearly challenged himself with these sidemen. Individually and collectively they offer him a force of reckoning. On Shift, Richardson brings his best game, particularly as a composer and arranger. His democratic songs and charts allow each man to be fully himself while being an irreplaceable part of the collective. ~ Thom Jurek
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