On Monday night June 14, 2010 I heard the first set of The Kim Richmond Concert Jazz Orchestra at Typhoon Restaurant at the Santa Monica Airport. [The list of players is in my blog posting below.] Kim is a prolific composer/arranger, band leader and saxophone player. A seasoned musician, he's worked with Stan Kenton, Louie Bellson, Bob Florence, Bill Holman, and Vinny Golia, among others (www.kimrichmond.com), and in addition to this big BIG band, he has a sextet and other smaller groups. Being able to hear live this symphonic big band sound with some of the best jazz musicians in the world is a good enough reason to be in L.A.
The set began with a Richmond original chart called "Augustana," featuring first trumpet Bob O'Donnell and Glen Berger on tenor sax. Next they did Richmond's arrangement of "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" (Arlen/Harburg) featuring Alex Budman (flute) and guitarist Tom Hynes, that seemed particularly poetic with airplanes taking off into the last rays of the setting sun. Next they played Richmond's Gil Evans-inspired arrangement of "Passacaglia (a Larry Koonse tune) and "My Funny Valentine" (Rogers and Hart), with Richmond playing the solo on alto, reminiscent of that dreamy, romantic smoked-filled room sax sound of the 1940s.
The band then premiered Richmond's ingenious bop chart of "Zip-a-dee-doo-dah" (Allie Wrubel/Ray Gilbert) featuring duets by first alto player Alex Budman with Jonathan Dane (trumpet), followed by Rich Eames on keyboard. This is an unsentimental, rip-roaring, calamitous arrangement, and I loved it. To slow things down a bit, they played Richmond's arrangement of Charlie Chaplin's "Smile" featuring tenor sax solo by John Yoakim and Rich Eames on keyboard. The band could have done a better job blending on those supporitve lush harmonies on this tune.
The set concluded with Richmond's original composition "Anchor of Hope" (2007?), a big symphonic jazz orchestra work lasting more than 20 minutes, and certainly the highlight of the set. The colorful writing is full of grand gestures and Richmond takes us to unexpected places on his epic quest. Extraordinary percussionist Ralph Razze held the piece together during its many complex transitions, which ranges from a heroic theme that sounds like it would work for the main title of an adventure flick to a completely incorrigible trombone solo by Joey Sellers that disinigrates into bedlam (as the rest of the band drops out); followed then by a tenor sax solo by Glen Berger that trades off with trumpeter Jonathan Dane (again the band drops out so the soloists can finish their business); winding up with a light yet exotic tropical island sounding section featuring orchestral woodwind writing followed by electric guitar solo (Tom Hynes), ending with a thrilling trumpet solo played by Ron King. Richmond thinks architecturally with all of his big band charts and is a sensitive, thoughtful musician; he's poetic even when striving for that large epic symphonic grand statement; the band surrenders and goes along with him on this journey.
There was no cover charge or minimun at Typhoon and the food is excellent and reasonably priced that works out well for LA jazz fans; Typhoon's always draws a full house for jazz on Monday nights. By all accounts I should have stayed for the equally compelling second set. Next time. As usual the audience was full of great talent, too: Peter Myers and his lovely wife, Don Shelton, Frank Macchia, Jeff Clayton, and Annie Patterson.