I am very reluctant to award new releases a 5/5 score. Not just because it means these exceptional musicians are better players than me; of course not! However, if I play the albums sometime after the review, my opinion may have changed dramatically. This certainly was not the case for Leo Richardson's debut album, The Chase
The Chase conveys passion, commitment and all that is cool about jazz.
Leo is one of many residential performers to earn the badge of honour and perform at Ronnie Scotts. The venue is the UK's most famous jazz club which opened its doors to London on 30th October 1959.
Leo met upright bassist Mark Lewandowski whilst he was still studying at Trinity College, and the rest is history. All the musicians featured on the album bring with them their own flavour. From Rick Simpson, adding the suave, classical piano ambience, to Ed Richardson (no relation) who plays the drums like an octopus with eight arms. The album also features saxophonist Alan Skidmore, who has been at the heart of the British scene since 1968. Trumpeter Quentin Collins who - influenced by the likes of Dizzy Gillespie - brings his artillery of energetic flair.
The Chase is a curtain raiser played with enthusiasm, passion and soul.
Releasing this album is perhaps a bold and courageous move for Leo, as he openly admitted the objective of his inaugural collection was not to dazzle and surprise his audience, but to play what he loves.
The Leo Richardson Quartet executes a compelling performance with the passion and ferocity of a raging fire.
Some of the tracks I have chosen for this article:
Dedicated to Joe Henderson is Blues For Joe. This is full of hard bop and momentum - yes, mass times velocity (one for the scientists). It is a solid rhythm catapulting you on a very fast journey. At 135 bpm it should come with a warning 'seatbelts required'. The Chase, also played with agility at allegro, with the speed of a world class sprinter. Usain Bolt may not win this sprint. It's a track for Olympians and The Leo Richardson Quartet are great competitors. Noteworthy of the podium.
A tune that reminds me of saxophonists Sahib Shihab - Demon E. This has a nice swing and is also dedicated to Leo's wife Elizabeth. The saxophone elevates this track and is full of affection. You'll find yourself quickly reciting the melody whist clicking your fingers shadowed by a steady foot tap.
A throwback to the swinging sixties and the days of the Quincy Jones Big Band, The Curve shuffles along with the bossa nova rhythm, whist a tight horn section provides the corner stone foundation. Leo's solo is hypnotic, engaging and full of confidence whilst the piano provides a catchy and natural accompaniment. This is the stuff jazz is made of. An original song with a tuneful and memorable melody.
The musicians are demonstrably skilful, and this is not an arena for any one musician to dominate the album; this is clearly a collaboration of friends having a great time.
The production is first class and every nuance, evidently heard as if you were at a live chamber performance. This is why The Chase will be a commercial success.
Leo Richardson - Tenor Saxophone
Rick Simpson - Piano
Mark Lewandowski - Double Bass
Ed Richardson - Drums
Quentin Collins - Trumpet
Alan Skidmore - Saxophone
Label: Ubuntu Music