It would be reductionist to call Shift a Pat Metheny album. Yes, his signaturely chameleonic guitar is one of the most pronounced sounds all throughout saxophonist Logan Richardson’s latest album, this time around on the Blue Note label, but it’s not Metheny’s album. It would be reductionist to call Shift a Jason Moran album, though his tones color this collection of songs as well. Bassist Harish Raghavan and drummer Nasheet Waits ain’t nothin’ to sneeze at, either. It’s this assemblage of talent, Metheny in particular, that makes Richardson’s Blue Note debut such an impressionable album.
Opener “Mind Free” is the table setting; it puts it out there with the immediate shock that this is the band, here to impress you, with the everybody-gets-a-solo format we know in jazz, but there’s something more here. A complexity in this composition feels smoothed out to great effect. The following “Creeper” has that same sense. It’s cool, then it switches in tempo and time, Richardson tumbles but he’s never quite out. There’s control in these songs that they themselves are enjoyable. This leads to the band.
Oh. My. God. Pat. Metheny. It’s Metheny who really gets stuck in the craw the whole way through here. It’s hard to think of him having an off time, and even with him playing with robots as of late, he’s constantly inspiring. Yet here, his electric playing is damn near indescribable, like having some seasonal delicacy in a very good year where environmental conditions were in favor.
Moran whether on piano or Rhodes can go absolutely wherever he wants and keep the soul intact, yet here he feels less of the focus. He comps with technical prowess and delicate muscularity. The same sensibility could be said of Nasheet Waits, who always seems to have a new idea bouncing somewhere on the kit but still stays anchored. Or of Harish Raghavan who is a master of keeping the groove everywhere he goes when things get heady.
However, it all comes down to Richardson who made this album right. His take on Bruno Mars’ “Walked Out of Heaven” is like some haunting fever dream and the moment for the jazz initiated to pipe in and ask “Who is this? This is nice.” “Slow” is played fast and clever. “Alone” is a spacious ballad. Closer “Untitled” flips in the cartwheels this group has played the whole album through.
In Shift, everything clicks. A strong group of songs from an even stronger band (with a guitarist in the finest form I may have heard him in years) from a saxophonist who as a leader has made quite the Blue Note debut. Logan Richardson made a hell of an album. It would be reductionist to call it anything else.
Nextbop Editor-in-Chief Anthony Dean-Harris hosts the modern jazz radio show, The Line-Up, Fridays at 9pm CST on 91.7 FM KRTU San Antonio and is also a contributing writer to DownBeat Magazine and the San Antonio Current.