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Rex Richardson: Jazz Upstairs: Live at the Bar-Guru-Bar

Athens, the famed Greek capital, provides the musical setting for Rex Richardson’s trumpet, flugelhorn and piccolo trumpet, in a quintet he headed at one of that city’s night spots in early 2006. Joining him for Jazz Upstairs: Live at the Bar-Guru-Bar are four Greek musicians with solid playing credentials: Takis Paterelis, alto sax; Dimitris Kalatzis, piano; Giorgios Giorgades, bass; and Alex Drakos Ktistakis, drums.

Richardson, apparently from the Chicago area, is a player with training in both classical and jazz arenas. The jazz roots displayed on this recording show the influence of Freddie Hubbard to a limited degree. There are any number of spots, however, where the leader seems not particularly comfortable, the most obvious his piccolo trumpet playing on Hubbard’s “Dear John.” It’s like he’s trying to highlight his chops and the higher-range horn is being a bit of a maverick. Elsewhere he sometimes tends to run out of musical ideas and depends on brass effects and note-running rather than getting into the meat of the tunes. While his technical skills are clear most of the time, his efforts at building meaningful solos fall short a bit too often. His best work is found on the opening “What is This Thing Called Love,” the second track, his original “The Tao of Heavy D” and Paterelis’ “Fog.”

The CD also shows the growing universal scope of jazz as a result of the quality of the leader’s supporting cast. Paterelis, whose alto tone has the acidic flavor of Jackie McLean with an occasional dash of Eric Dolphy, is worthy of close listening, while the rhythm section led by pianist Kalatzis is no lightweight outfit and is quite proficient at putting things in the pocket and keeping them there.

Originally Published