Soul jazz is a sub-genre that is much admired and has, for many newcomers to modern jazz, served as an accessible entrance point to more adventurous avenues. Tommy Chase in the 1980’s personified the British jazz penchant for the harder hitting side of soul jazz and this album takes matters a step further. In the case of tenor saxophonist Leo Richardson, he has regularly performed with his quintet at the prestigious Ronnie Scott’s and has been host of the late late show.
Heavily influenced by the hard bop of both Art Blakey and Horace Silver on Blue Note, which is a fine way to ingratiate oneself into the world of jazz, and stylistically owing a debt of gratitude on the tenor saxophone to the likes of Dexter Gordon and Joe Henderson not forgetting John Coltrane, all three active on that label, Richardson offers up a tribute to the classic 1960’s sound, ably assisted by the quartet with Rick Simpson on piano and Ed Richardson on drums, with Quentin Collins on often fiery trumpet. In fact the Richardson family has an impressive musical pedigree insofar as father Jim was an accomplished bassist who carved out his own career.
The music is suitably hot and spicy on ‘The Chase’, with an extended piano solo, while Horace Silver is evoked on the fitting ‘Silver Lining’, with a bass solo from Mark Lewandoski and phrasing that is straight out of the 1950s Horace Silver band sound, while ‘Blues for Joe’, is presumably a nod to the aforementioned tenorist. In a more Eastern modal groove rather than Latin confounding the title, ‘Mambo’ (‘Turkish Mambo’ might have been a more apt title), offers new perspectives for the quintet to explore in subsequent recordings.
A more reflective side to the band repertoire is showcased on the lovely, Bill Evans influenced, ‘Elisha’s Song’, and here Richardson gently caresses the melody with the tenderest of solos. For a closing finale, ‘Mr. Skid’ features Alan Skidmore in a tandem that recalls the blowing sessions of the 1950’s cutting edge contests, and indeed it is the elder statesman on the tenor who produces a soaring, snake-like tenor tirade, which is the perfect way to remember this great servant of British jazz.
Liner notes are provided by Leo Richardson’s own teacher, and former Jazz Messenger, Jean Toussaint. Dates in the autumn include Matt and Phred’s in Manchester on 30 November, and the Pizza Express in London on 12 December.