Sunday, February 25, 2018

Album Review: Logan Richardson- Blues People

Logan Richardson seems to be spoiling for a fight on his confrontational new album Blues People.  Listeners are forced to choose a side.  While I don’t embrace every element of the divisive project, I’ve had the saxophonist’s back for years.

I pegged Richardson for renown when he began dazzling me with his unconventional vision on Kansas City stages about ten years ago.  He fulfilled much of that promise on the 2016 album Shift.  The critically heralded Blue Note Records title placed him with an all-star band consisting of guitarist Pat Metheny, keyboardist Jason Moran, bassist Harish Raghavan and drummer Nasheet Waits.

Blues People will be released by the scrappy indie label Ropeadope on April 13.  Richardson literally doubles down on electric guitar on the album.  Kansas City’s Justus West and the Ukrainian guitarist Igor Osypov supplant Metheny on the instrument.  Along with bassist DeAndre Manning and drummer Ryan Lee, fixtures on the Kansas City scene, the men evoke rock-oriented artists like Jimi Hendrix, James “Blood” Ulmer and Living Colour on abrasive tracks including “Underground,” “Rebels Rise” and “With You.”

Screaming electric guitars are just one of many sounds on the eclectic 66-minute statement.  “80s Kid” is true to its title.  An electrifying Reagan-era throwback, the song could have been used as dramatic entrance music at Prince concerts.  “Country Boy” is a Moby-esque country blues remix.  The muscular “Change” would fit comfortably on a playlist between tracks by Kendrick Lamar and Twenty One Pilots.

The brash “Anthem (To Human Justice),” the album’s pivotal track, suggests that Richardson merits a seat at the same table as contemporary hitmakers.  The track revolves around Richardson’s pleading saxophone, the unifying element that bonds the disparate sounds of Blues People.  Many will ask, “that’s all well and good, but is it jazz?”  Audacious improvisation that synthesizes a vast swathe of American music, Blues People is precisely what culturally relevant  jazz should sound like in 2018.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

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