On the alto saxophonist’s Blue Note debut he keeps A-list company with Pat Metheny and Jason Moran both on the record.
And here, live on tour, the Next Collective Missourian, who started out as a leader with Cerebral Flow on the Catalonian label Fresh Sound New Talent released nine years ago, and whose sideman work includes a spread of album appearances with Mwandishi great Billy Hart, has a band containing two hot young New York scene leaders: the first Nir Felder (you may remember the excellent OKeh outing Golden Age) playing a Strat electric guitar using OP-1 effects via pedalboard and keyboard (the latter coming into its theremin-like own in the second set) for a cloudy cinematic calm; the second the English pianist long since resident in New York, John Escreet.
Lesser known is the lively long haired Late Bloomer drummer Tommy Crane and the hard grooving double bassist Max Mucha from Poland. The quintet played two sets, the tunes unannounced, but the first, the drummer told me during the break, comprised of several tunes run together: that’s ‘Mind Free,’ ‘Creeper,’ ‘Time,’ and ‘In Your Next Life’ all from Shift. The goateed fairly short-haired intellectual-looking Richardson’s writing has plenty of sophistication, is metrically advanced, and is energetic and full of a freebop visceral abandon.
The first set was better than the second even though the second was freer and more open, but more like a lab experiment. The club sound was really good, engineer and announcer Luc Saint-Martin also dimming the lights for purply hues to take the harshness out of the early evening gloom before the band went on.
Felder and Escreet were a formidable harmonic double act: Escreet able to scrunch huge many fingered augmented chords out of the triggered dots and up-tempo sprints that the Richardson charts often demanded, modulating like it’s child’s play. Drummer Crane read the piano lines on a music stand and was a tenacious terrier-like presence in the second set varying texture with good use made especially of a range of different mallets, the tough smaller type detonating ripples of reaction across the band. Richardson can leap piercingly beyond the highest register of his range for more emotion and the tunes have an anthemic melodicism that journey from a Jackie McLean-like swagger to a highly contemporary non-retro sound, Felder’s magisterial command of texture an American Eivind Aarset if you like. Stimulating music. Stephen Graham
Kandace Springs, above, video of the singer performing ‘Place to Hide’ at the Cheltenham Jazz Festival, which was filmed a few days after the Soho gig reviewed below. Truly a special song, melody and lyrics, singer and song as one. A tearjerker you won't forget.
Sat in a booth by the stage as the club filled, the house Steinway nudged more towards the centre specially for the performance, the double bass of Sam Vickery and then the drums of Luke Flowers set up over towards the curtain that masked the former street entrance, Nashville’s Kandace Springs was on the radar of the late Prince long before any of us would ever know.
The singer/pianist was returning to the club in front of a largely record biz and press crowd after an earlier warm up gig a few weeks ago before setting off to tour with Gregory Porter.
Just a day and a half after a show-stealing performance at the Jazz FM Awards in Bloomsbury she was here playing the Soho basement club ahead of the summertime release of Soul Eyes, the title track of her Blue Note Larry Klein-produced label debut, the Mal Waldron words and tune that she sang and played for the second time this week to London audiences, her effortlessly certain sunny blues-drenched mezzo charting a sound that has plenty of room for a big swathe of references stylistically, from an Alicia Keys marker in the curl of her accented beats working back to Roberta Flack and further to the days when jazz, blues and soul were a circle united. She shows they still are even if she is clearly destined for bigger stages and not just as a support.
Accompanying herself with a lightness of touch, a jazz sensibility and more, those augmented chords and knowing progressions part of her cool, maybe playing like Nina Simone would a Billy Taylor tune, she opened with ‘Novocaine Heart’ and besides ‘Soul Eyes’, and with 1970s songwriter Judie Tzuke (‘Stay With Me Till Dawn’) sat in front of her at a little table, ‘Place to Hide’ an instantly lit-up Tzuke co-write with Lucie Silvas and Graham Kearns that seems tailor made for a wider mainstream pop non-jazz public, and which also crops up on the new album, featured.
Ewan MacColl’s ‘The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face,’ not on the album and the least effective of an otherwise excellent performance, the artificiality of these occasions notwithstanding, and Hoagy Carmichael jazz standard ‘The Nearness of You’ (no, it isn’t all just about your sweet conversation that she conjured best from Ned Washington’s words), a song that Springs told us was inspired by Norah Jones’ example on Come Away With Me and convincingly interpreted in Springs’ own contemporary way.
Springs has a natural looseness in her performance flow and plenty more you suspect that she kept under wraps necessarily with the drummer mainly limited to light brush strokes, the rhythmic lights turned down low in the intimate setting, and a way of caressing the soul, pop or jazz material that shows she’s all natural, her little ankle boots kicking down hard as her band swung and simply grooved to her.