Label: Ropeadope, 2018
Personnel – Logan Richardson: alto saxophone; Justus West: electric guitar; Igor Osypov: acoustic and electric guitars; DeAndre Manning: electric bassist; Ryan Lee: drums.
The American saxophonist Logan Richardson, based in Paris since 2011, released interesting albums in the past to make us curious about his next steps. Shift, his Blue Note debut, was recorded with the illustrious Pat Metheny, Jason Moran, Harish Raghavan, and Nasheet Waits, while the new album, Blues People, released on Ropeadope, features a new band whose exploration of sound allows a sensible coexistence between post-bop, blues, hard rock, hip-hop, and electronica. Throughout the 14-song repertoire, he fuses all these genres, gaining a unique perspective through the involving musicality of the guitarists Justus West and Igor Osypov, electric bassist DeAndre Manning, and drummer Ryan Lee. Together, they reflect on the past and present of black people's lives.
“Hidden Figures” starts with periodic tom-tom sweeps before establishing the pace by locking a syncopated hip-hop beat. Both guitars, boasting a heavy tone that recalls Steve Vai, fuse with an instant understanding, creating a hypnotic mood that suits Richardson’s emotionally charged phrases.
Adopting a pop/rock posture, “80’s Child” is impregnated with the energy of Simple Minds. The song is enhanced with a bolder rhythm, having alto sax improvs over cyclic guitar riffs. The methodology used here is practically transferred to “Pure Change”, where the vigor of the rock drumming and guitar infusions are dominant, while melodious sax lines keep hovering on top. An assemblage of several ostinatos creates a lively urban portrait.
Both “Country Boy” and “Black Brown Yellow” feature acoustic guitar. Whereas the former adds electronic-like effects and slide guitar for a country blues experimentation, the latter initially embraces vocal layers and bowed bass within a classical romanticism that later reshapes in order to incorporate rich and rounded guitar licks suggestive of the heavy metal style. Also “The Settlement” brings up a neoclassical metal feel, more euphonious than unconventional.
Almost falling in a dark electronic hum, “Underground” does justice to its title, with the band mystifying our ears through the use of a bass pedal, disrupted rhythms, transverse guitar noise, and an effect-infused saxophone. The flux of cross beats also works well on “Hunter of Soul”, where vibes and drones are intensified to obtain intriguing textures, only attenuated by the bandleader’s melancholic lines.
Similarly to “Urban Life”, “Class Wars” relies on a bass groove eligible for both funk-rock and electronica purposes. If the latter has guitar ostinatos and unison melodies increasing the saturation of the colors, then the former’s rock exuberance serves as a vehicle for Richardson’s self-controlled melodic drive, definitely more plaintive and airy than euphoric.
Conceptual and diversified, Blues People has Richardson finding new paths while transcending genres. His fourth album may not be a career peak, but it's great to see him probing new directions in search of originality.
02 - Hidden Figures ► 03 - 80’s Child ► 14 - Pure Change