Album review – The Chase, Leo Richardson Quartet

Full disclosure.  I bought this album as my piano teacher is a member of the quartet.  Before you think this is an act of charity, listen to the album.  It’s worth every penny and more.  A lot of people are agreeing, including The Guardian who gave it a rare five stars.

I’d never heard Leo Richardson’s band before and wasn’t sure what to expect. What they deliver and what you get is an album which wouldn’t sound out of place played alongside those classic Blue Note albums of the 50s and 60s.  This is a complement of the highest order and, as far as I understand it, what the band was aiming for.  The band have really captured that sound, which is greater than the sum of its parts.  Check out the tracks on Richardson’s website.

The album kicks off at tempo with the bebop inspired Blues for Joe.  Richardson has a rich, gutsy tenor sound which I don’t hear nearly often enough these days (alto players seem to be in abundance!) and rips into this and most other tunes on the album.  It’s not until track two – Demon E – when you really realise that the Blue Note sound is there.  This owes much to Quentin Collins guesting on trumpet on this and two other tracks including the title track.  The Chase is an apt title track and sounds like something off a Wayne Shorter album, with Rick Simpson playing the McCoy Tyner role (at least in his ‘comping’ during the main tune).  Simpson delivers a fiery, note perfect solo driven by a hot rhythm section biting at his heels (Mark Lewandowski on bass and Ed Richardson on drums).

The album cools its heels with Elisha’s Song but returns to its fiery proceedings with the Night in Tunisia-inspired Mambo, which gives Simpson the welcome space to stretch out and play in a more modern way.  The album concludes with Mr. Skid, so named due to the presence of Alan Skidmore on the track.  Skidmore, like Richardson, is a tenor saxophonist who has played with many jazz greats and household names including Kate Bush and Van Morrison.  Skidmore, a veteran of the British jazz scene, is (so Wikipedia informs me) strongly influenced by John Coltrane and this is apparent, adding another dimension to the album.

It’s rare that I hear a new jazz release like this.  I think this is partly due to artists wanting to produce far more contemporary sounding albums.  That’s fine but it’s refreshing to hear great new tunes, featuring top class and inventive playing, in a Blue Note vein.

I can’t recommend this highly enough.  Do yourself a favour and check it out.