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Steph Richards: Take the Neon Lights (Birdwatcher)

A review of the multi-instrumentalist's album with James Carney, Sam Minaie, and Andrew Munsey

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Take the Neon Lights by Steph Richards
The cover of Take the Neon Lights by Steph Richards

The musical headspace in which rising Brooklyn-via-Canada trumpeter Steph Richards operates stretches far beyond avant-garde jazz—an area she’s explored with visionaries such as Anthony Braxton, Henry Threadgill, and John Zorn—and into art-pop territory (she’s logged studio time with Yoko Ono and David Byrne too). On last year’s entrancing, electronics-heavy FULLMOON, the composer, trumpeter/flugelhornist, and percussionist came into her own; now Richards is showing off her versatile skillset by taking on the all-acoustic, avant-leaning jazz rush of Take the Neon Lights with ease.

Augmented by a muscular group made up of pianist James Carney, bassist Sam Minaie, and drummer Andrew Munsey, Richards goes for broke on this set’s eight hectic and hyper tracks, drawing on ever-shifting, adventurous sounds that are hard to pin down. Traces of hard-charging bebop and groove-heavy swing seep through, but ultimately the album is genre-defiant.

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