Meet David Richardson

Tessa Souter and Andrea Wolper By

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When I was in high school, Buddy Rich came to play at our school. As I was working in Audio Visual, I had an opportunity to try to get an autograph from him. I approached him and directly asked him for his autograph. He smiled at me and said, "Get away from me, kid." I should have been insulted but I took it as a badge of honor.
Wherever he goes, David Richardson makes it his business to seek out the best in jazz. From Siberia, Moscow, and St. Petersburg to Costa Rica, Europe to the U.S., you'll find him meeting up with fellow jazz-loving Facebook friends, following his favorite musicians, and finding new places to listen. But his obsession with jazz doesn't end with being a consumer: he started a company called The Real Jazz Ambassadors to make documentaries about beloved musicians, one of whom is the artist whose 1959 hit record turned four-year-old David into a lifelong jazz fan. Wondering who that might be? Read on!

Tell us a bit about yourself.
I grew up a military brat, living in Germany, Alaska, Ft. Knox, and Willingboro, NJ. In 1975, after high school, I joined the Army and trained to become a Russian linguist. I served in Berlin, Karlsruhe, and Ft. Hood, Texas, eventually becoming an infantry officer through the ROTC, and serving with the Second Armored Division in Ft. Hood.

After leaving active duty in 1987, I started to work with computers as an Oracle database specialist, and have continued working as an independent contractor for the past 30 years. Because of my continuing interest in Russia, in 2002 I moved to the city of Tomsk, in Siberia, where I taught conversational English at two universities. I became acquainted with the Russian jazz artist, Igor Butman, when he played in Tomsk in 2002.

While at Tomsk Polytechnic University I was asked to participate in a commission to evaluate the language program and make a report of my findings. Being quite naïve, I told the truth and was immediately fired and expelled from Russia. I was basically banished to Vilnius, Lithuania for two months, while I obtained a new visa, and then returned to Russia and sued the university for wrongful termination. Not only did I win the suit, but through my attorney I was introduced to my future wife, Anzhelika, who assisted me in starting a computer business. After Russia, Anzhelika and I lived in Costa Rica for several years, and in 2008 we moved to Nashua, NH, where we live with our eight-year-old daughter.

What's your earliest memory of music?
My mother was a pianist and singer, so I was always surrounded by music. In Germany we always listened to Armed Forces Radio and Willis Conover on the Voice of America. In Alaska, in the early '60s, we used to have shows in our basement with the neighborhood kids, miming to The Beatles, Herman's Hermits and others.

When I returned to the "lower 48" in 1968 I started to study the clarinet. From that time through the end of high school I was always a member of the school band. In 1970 my mother gifted me her childhood Chickering studio grand piano and I started to teach myself how to play, mostly learning by listening to every Stevie Wonder record I could find.

How old were you when you got your first record?
My first record was Take 5 by Dave Brubeck. It was a 45 with "Blue Rondo à la Turk" on the B-side. I got it in 1961 when I was four-and-a-half. My parents gave it to me because I was so in love with the quartet's Time Out album.

Was there one album or experience that was your doorway to jazz?
Brubeck's Time Out , in December 1961. My favorite song on the album was "Strange Meadowlark." I first heard the album on Armed Forces Radio while we lived in Germany, and when we got it I bugged my parents to play it all the time.

How long have you been going out to hear live music?
My high school social studies teacher, Ty Belford, was pretty connected to show business. He brought a lot of different groups to perform, and I was part of the audio visual group, which did lights and sound. So I got into concerts with Buddy Rich, Chuck Mangione, Cal Tjader, Phyllis Hyman, Dave Brubeck, and others. But it wasn't until I joined the Army and traveled to Berlin that I got my first real chance to go out to jazz clubs to see live music live shows.

What was the first concert you ever attended?
It was sometime in 1966, when Lou Rawls came to perform in Ft. Richardson, Alaska, I believe on his way to perform in Vietnam. He sang a song that became one of my favorites, ""The Shadow Of Your Smile." (I later learned to play it on my new clarinet!) Apparently, Rawls was a Sergeant in the 82nd Airborne, and that was one reason he made a point of playing at Army locations.

How often do you go out to hear live music?
I try to see something once a week, especially when I am traveling; I like to discover new venues, where I often find something surprising. This happens especially when I am in Europe and Russia. It seems there are a lot more venues to discover than in the United States.


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