• Ben Lee

Leo Richardson - Interview (Jazz Leeds Festival 2019)

Continuing our series of interviews leading up to the Jazz Leeds Festival 2019, Ben got to speak with Leo Richardson, one of London's leading tenor saxophonists known for his hard-bop style. Having been around the jazz scene for a number of years now, Richardson has an illustrious catalogue of musicians he has played with as well as successfully forging his own solo career. He plays at Leeds College of Music at 2:45pm on Saturday 20th July - links to ticket information can be found here.


After the success of your first album The Chase released back in October 2017, when can we expect your second album Move to be released?


"Move is due for release on August 9th 2019, and our launch show is on August 6th at Pizza Express Jazz Club, Soho."


What has the music making process been like for ‘Move’, are there any particular themes emerging from the album? 


"The compositions on 'Move' are very much a natural progression from the first album. The music has developed and matured, whilst instilling the essence of hard bop but remaining more contemporary and moving in different directions. The eight original compositions were all written for and premiered at Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club."  


"I never thought I’d release my second album so soon after the first, but I just love playing with the band so, I thought, why not? The rhythm section in this quartet is absolutely world class and I’m very lucky to be able to play my music with them and develop it together as a band."


Who joins you on the upcoming album in your quartet?


"The rhythm section is made up of legends Rick Simpson on piano, Tim Thornton on double bass and Ed Richardson on drums. We are joined by the incomparable Alex Garnett for a two tenor knees up which was a very exciting experience for me. Alex is one of my all time favourite players and humans!"


You recently represented the UK in the USA at the Rochester Jazz Festival, how was that experience for you?


"Incredible! An experience I’ll never forget. I feel so privileged to have been able to take my quartet over to Rochester International Jazz Festival. Such a great vibe over there and countless incredible acts. We were very well received and I’m very thankful for the opportunity and hope we can go back soon. We had a horrendous journey getting there as our connecting flight was cancelled! After an 8 hr flight to New York, and a 2 hr passport control queue, we had no other option than to hire a car and drive 368 miles to Rochester through the night, arriving at 5:30am! It was most certainly worth it!"



Which musicians have influenced how you approach playing the tenor the most throughout your career?


"My first love was Dexter Gordon. I’ve always tried to capture his massive sound and sense of swing and swagger in my playing. It’s very infectious and you can’t help but smile when listening to any of his records. What a beast! I also became infatuated with Coltrane, dazzled by the sheets of sound years and how he manages to convey the most eye watering, expressive and emotional solos on a ballad. An instantly recognisable sound and style. Also Joe Henderson has always been a big influence for me. I just love his sound so much and his approach to harmony, and of course his compositions. "


Considering you're based in London, how is your experience of the emerging jazz scene there that has grown in the past few years?


"There has certainly been a resurgence of jazz in the last few years, which is excellent. More young people are coming to gigs, which is very important! There’s some great clubs in London run by people that are passionate about the music. It’s an exciting time to be involved in this amazing art form."


Are there any artists in the UK jazz scene you’re excited about at the moment?


"There’s a tonne of ridiculous players coming up on the UK scene. Keeps you on your toes! I can’t get enough of trumpet maestro James Copus. He’s bad ass! He has his first release coming out soon too. Absolutely ridiculous player. Tom Barford is another one to watch out for, he certainly knows his way around the tenor! He has a group with another tenor nutter Alex Hitchcock. Hearing those two together is outstanding." 


You’ve played at a host of incredible venues, any favourites that have stood out so far?


"I’ve been lucky enough to play with some incredible artists around the world. Playing the main stage at Glastonbury has certainly got to be up there, along with the BBC Proms at the Albert Hall but I also love playing smaller clubs where it’s more intimate and you can really feel the buzz from the audience and on stage with the musicians. Ronnie's is certainly one of my favourite places to play."


The extent of your touring and recording with artists in the industry is already impressively vast, has there been any particular musicians you would like to work with again in the future?


"I’ve been fortunate to have played with lots of amazing artists so far. They’ve all been great so would welcome any opportunity to play again!"


How do you feel about playing in Leeds at the upcoming Jazz Leeds Festival?


"We’re really looking forward to performing at Jazz Leeds festival, lots of fantastic shows on and a chance for us to play at the prestigious college!"



The Leo Richardson Quartet playing at the Jazz Leeds Festival 2019 is comprised of Leo Richardson on tenor sax, Rick Simpson on piano, Tim Thornton on double bass and Chris Draper on drums.



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