Kim Richmond, his Jazz Orchestra, and its music are timeless as was proven with his newest CD released Spring '13 entitled “A Tribute to Stan Kenton.” This was recently reinforced with a performance of a two set show at Typhoon Jazz/Blues Club and Restaurant. This is a very intimate space with a backdrop of the Santa Monica airport right outside, visible through the floor to ceilings windows while soundlessly providing a mood and atmosphere of another time and place with the landing of tiny propeller planes visible. The ambiance inside was just as timeless with the familiar and relaxed jazz of long ago. Perfect evening.
The musicians, in casual clothes, strolled out with their instruments while chatting with one another and greeting friends in the audience. Hubert Laws, guest artist who is also on the new CD, was setting up what he was going to need to join them later; just a microphone and a music stand. On the whole, this was a “no muss, no fuss” evening. And it was great. It was like being part of a wonderful family. And, the music was every bit as thoughtful and precise as it had been at the release performance of "Artistry" at REDCAT last April. Just different audience, different clothes and different venue. Same great music.
Richmond, a well-known saxophone soloist (and educator), led his 23-piece orchestra, which is famous for its expansive instrumentation that includes five woodwinds, four trumpets, three tenor trombones, bass trombone, two French horns, Latin percussion and more. This latest release, "Artistry", is a tribute to big band leader Stan Kenton and his Neophonic Orchestra, originally created in 1964 with L.A.’s best jazz and studio musicians. Big, new, Kentonesque jazz and Latin-style compositions pay homage to the size and scope of the master’s kinetic orchestration, rightfully known to music historians as the original “Wall of Sound.”
The entire evening was music that is so familiar (although most people don’t actually know the names of the tunes – they can sure hum them with their own interpretation) and included: “Peanut Vendor”, the Cuban based street vendors cry that has practically become the Cuban national anthem; "Over the Rainbow with a big, sweeping orchestraion, and the Kenton anthem, “Artistry in Rhythm”, which opens with a blasting horn fanfare melting into horns that include a playful bassoon riff and then, the urgency of rhythm picks up and takes the listener on a real musical trip.
Special guest, Hubert Laws, joined them for his cut from the album, “Seascape”. Listening to Hubert Laws, no matter what he is playing, is always like musical comfort food. You know it’s going to be wonderful and just what you want, but never boring. That’s how it was this evening as well. His playing had a sweetness without being cloying. And, as usual, his virtuosity gives the audience a secure feeling no matter how difficult his improvisations sound.
Richmond, as when performing at RECAT, is very, very generous in providing solos for the members of the band. Everyone has a chance to shine, and everyone deserves it. It’s performances like this, when everyone is included, that a sense of completeness comes to an ensemble.
Richmond, his orchestra and his current CD, ARTISTRY, are a treasure in a time when music greats such as Stan Kenton, oftimes don’t receive the ongoing recognition they deserve. If wondering about a Christmas present, this CD would certainly a smile to anyone who receives it.