On the alto saxophonist’s Blue Note debut he keeps A-list company with Pat Metheny and Jason Moran both on the record.
And here, live on tour, the Next Collective Missourian, who started out as a leader with Cerebral Flow on the Catalonian label Fresh Sound New Talent released nine years ago, and whose sideman work includes a spread of album appearances with Mwandishi great Billy Hart, has a band containing two hot young New York scene leaders: the first Nir Felder (you may remember the excellent OKeh outing Golden Age) playing a Strat electric guitar using OP-1 effects via pedalboard and keyboard (the latter coming into its theremin-like own in the second set) for a cloudy cinematic calm; the second the English pianist long since resident in New York, John Escreet.
Lesser known is the lively long haired Late Bloomer drummer Tommy Crane and the hard grooving double bassist Max Mucha from Poland. The quintet played two sets, the tunes unannounced, but the first, the drummer told me during the break, comprised of several tunes run together: that’s ‘Mind Free,’ ‘Creeper,’ ‘Time,’ and ‘In Your Next Life’ all from Shift. The goateed fairly short-haired intellectual-looking Richardson’s writing has plenty of sophistication, is metrically advanced, and is energetic and full of a freebop visceral abandon.
The first set was better than the second even though the second was freer and more open, but more like a lab experiment. The club sound was really good, engineer and announcer Luc Saint-Martin also dimming the lights for purply hues to take the harshness out of the early evening gloom before the band went on.
Felder and Escreet were a formidable harmonic double act: Escreet able to scrunch huge many fingered augmented chords out of the triggered dots and up-tempo sprints that the Richardson charts often demanded, modulating like it’s child’s play. Drummer Crane read the piano lines on a music stand and was a tenacious terrier-like presence in the second set varying texture with good use made especially of a range of different mallets, the tough smaller type detonating ripples of reaction across the band. Richardson can leap piercingly beyond the highest register of his range for more emotion and the tunes have an anthemic melodicism that journey from a Jackie McLean-like swagger to a highly contemporary non-retro sound, Felder’s magisterial command of texture an American Eivind Aarset if you like. Stimulating music. Stephen Graham