In ancient Athens, American trumpet virtuoso Rex Richardson has put together a group of excellent young Greek jazz musicians and shows them off on Jazz Upstairs: Live at the Bar-Guru-Bar
. A collection of standards and originals with swinging, easy-listening arrangements, some tracks possess a modern, cutting-edge bent.
Richardson, at home in both jazz and classical contexts, is a globetrotter, plying his talent in the world's concert halls and clubs when not teaching at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, Virginia.
Here, he plays fluegelhorn and piccolo trumpet along with his standard instrument. A fine composer/arranger as well, he earned his jazz credentials working with the likes of Benny Carter, Wycliffe Gordon and Dave Holland.
On the CD, his very hip Greek counterparts are alto saxophonist Takis Paterelis, pianist Dimitris Kalatzis, bassist Giorgios Giorgades and drummer Alex Kristokis. During his stay in Athens, Richardson and his partners have clearly played together for a while. Particularly impressive is Paterelis, but all get ample opportunities to show off their solo skills.
The program includes three compositions by Richardson, displaying his willingness to experiment. The adventurous "The Tao of Heavy D, features vibrant sections with an atonal quality and some pulsating with organized cacophony. In another vein, Paterelis' jaunty "Buhaina's Smile leaves room for a playful solo by Kalatzis, as well as providing space for Giorgades and Kristokis to shine.
Richardson again displays his versatility on Freddie Hubbard's "Dear John, with a whimsical turn on piccolo trumpet. Another aspect, a witty sardonic side, is shown on his "The Claim For the Ideal, with its Benny Golson blues-march pace and Brecht-Weill cynical overtone.
Richardson saves the best for last on James Spalding's "Kryptonite. He plays a long opening cadenza, lyrical at first then descending to a New Orleans growl, finally transcending to a blistering back-and-forth with Paterelis' alto.