There is plenty of jazz talent in my home city of Little Rock, Arkansas. A mainstay artist here is trumpeter/composer Tom Richeson. He is an Associate Professor of Music and Jazz Studies Coordinator at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. Richeson has performed with other hometown artists like Pharoah Sanders, Stan Samole, Art Porter Sr., Art Porter, Jr., Charles Thomas, Gene Rush and on tours with Frank Sinatra, The Jacksons, Diana Ross, Lou Rawls, and The O'Jays. He's a member of the Arkansas Jazz Hall of Fame (as administered by the Arkansas Jazz Heritage Foundation) and has been awarded a National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Fellowship. He has two previous self-produced recordings, Goose Bumps (1991) and A Tribute to Jerry Coker (2005).
In late 2014, Richeson released Jazz Tracks a collection of pieces recorded between 1993 and 2014, in a variety of formats. The lion's share of this recording places Richeson, playing a MIDI wind controller in the company of the Ted Ludwig Trio. Ludwig, a guitarist, is a NOLA expatriate who relocated to Little Rock following Hurricane Katrina. Richeson plays a MIDI wind controller on all of the performances with the trio. The sound effect of the wind controller (perhaps overly simplified) is that of a clarinet. Richeson's aptitude with the instrument is considerable, as he amply demonstrates.
Ludwig penned three compelling vehicles for Richeson. "Hardly" is pitch-perfect hard bop, replete with an impossible head and robust soloing by Richeson over Ludwig's soft, comping chords. On "Minor Adjustment" Richeson approximates an alto flute. The melody is faintly of the islands, humid and equally languid, a lazy ballad smelling of rum and heat. "Stand Up" is a lengthy and craggy exposition of time-shifting and swing. Ludwig turns in a funky break and nether-worldly solo that complements Richeson's synthesized sound, a sound he obviously enjoys and excels in.
Half of the disc is comprised of the "Journey Suite, Part 1." The suite opens with Richeson's presentation of the familiar Protestant "Doxology" ("Praise God from Whom all Blessings Flow"), subtitled "Journey." Here Richeson plays muted trumpet, accompanied by pianist Allen Mesko and bassist Jay Gentry with a brief, introspective introduction. The familiar melody is played reverently by Mesko followed by a Richeson obbligato with open bell. It is beautiful, full-bodied, and sincere.
There is but a single standard here, the Jule Styne/Sammy Cahn classic, "I Fall in Love Too Easily." Richeson plays a pensive muted trumpet over the plush foundation established by pianist Charles Thomas. Richeson's solo is relaxed and probing while Thomas' is full of bravado and command. This is the standout performance on a disc with many fine ones. All props to Tom Richeson with the secret hope for a complete recording with Ted Ludwig. Wouldn't that be something?
Hardly; Who Can I Turn To; Minor Adjustment; I Fall in Love too
Easily; Stand Up; Majesty; Journey Suite, Part 1 (The Sound of Many
Waters): Doxology (Journey); Spirit and Wind (The Revealing);
Treasure in the Field (The Discovery); Peace (The Stillness);
Proclaim (Waltz for Brenda).
Tom Richeson: MIDI Wind Controller (1, 2, 3 5, 6, 8, 9, 11),
Trumpet (4, 7), flugelhorn (6); Ted Ludwig Trio: Ted Ludwig:
guitar; Joe Vick: Bass; Brian Brown Drums (1, 2, 3 5, 8, 9, 11;
Charles Thomas: piano (4); Allan Mesko: Piano (7); Jay Gentry:
bass(7); Buck Powell: keyboards (6), tenor saxophone (10); Steve
Hudelson: guitar (10); Joe Vick: bass (10); Anthony Thompson:
drums (6, 10).
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