The energy which Richard brings to the stage makes me wonder about the term "smooth jazz". It certainly doesn't tell the whole story about his music or his stage presence. He plays too athletically to be smooth and as he vaults around with his white tenor sax, delighting the crowd, it brings new meaning to the word aerobic. We need to create new terminology for his style of music and performance. How about "pop jazz" with a twist?. As Richard played tunes from his newest CD, "Jumpin' Off", I realized that his music seemed more sophisticated and interesting to me than it has before. Although I've always enjoyed his recordings, I guess I'd say I love his new music.
Over the years Richard has played with some great groups such as "Tower of Power" and he has had some very good musicians in his own bands. Naoki Yanai, on bass, has been with Richard since at least 1989. Another very memorable co-performer has been Richard Smith. Richard seems to be doing his own thing more these days and an eminently qualified Dwight Sills takes his place on guitar. Other super musicians filling out the quintet were Dave Reinhardt and Ron Reinhardt on drums and keyboards respectively.
Milwaukee is always very happy to see Richard Elliot live and he really puts on a performance worth remembering. Normally Richard has a little story to tell which relates to one of the songs which he plays. This time he joked about his high school days and his performances in the marching band....a time when he first heard "When A Man Loves A Woman". He then played this tune as only he can. It's a very popular piece from his 1989 CD "Take To The Skies". If you like contemporary / smooth / pop jazz as I do, you must catch Richard Elliot live sometime.
Opening for Richard was a wonderful Deirdre Fellner and the Whole of Soul. She is a Wisconsin artist that has recently moved back from Alaska. She sang songs from her new CD, "Fixin' To Wail". She did a great job of singing soulful, rhythm and bluesy JAZZ along with accompaniment from her group. A few local favorites that played with her were Sam Steffke, keyboards; Jeff Pietrangelo trumpet; Duane Steurmer; bass. Her co-producer on the album, Tom Utschig played drums and Bill Stone, guitar. I'll be watching for Deirdre, hoping to catch her again soon.