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Spirit Level

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Biography of Spirit Level

Tim Richards

ON TOUR WITH HIS LATEST PROJECT 7-17TH APRIL 2005

Founder and leader of the long-lived British modern jazz group SPIRIT LEVEL (1979-1999), London-based pianist Tim Richards' style has been described as:

"Luminously funky... laced with the blues" The ROUGH GUIDE to JAZZ

"A unique mixture formed from his admiration of both the expansive, robust playing of McCoy Tyner and the luminous delicacy of Abdullah Ibrahim." The TIMES

Tim Richards' first encounter with a piano was at the age of 8 in a dentist's waiting room. After classical piano lessons he began to teach himself jazz and blues from the age of 14, when he saw Thelonious Monk and Otis Spann on TV. In recent years, Tim has won acclaim as a composer and arranger, writing a contemporary classical piece for violin, cello and piano ("Timetrap", 1998), and developing ideas in the larger instrumental setting of his new 9-piece band GREAT SPIRIT, which has featured key players on the British scene such as Pete King, Ed Jones, Gilad Atzmon, Denys Baptiste, Tony Kofi, Jason Yarde, Roger Beaujolais, and many others.

He also enjoys playing blues and has toured and recorded with many well-known blues artists including the award-winning Otis Grand, Dana Gillespie and Earl Green, as well as US guitarists Joe Louis Walker and Larry Garner. Tim is the author of the acclaimed piano tutor IMPROVISING BLUES PIANO, published in 1997 by Schott & Co.

"Tim Richards plays bluesy jazz piano with a fiercely contemporary edge and his compositions are lushly melodic." EVENING STANDARD Hot Tickets

"Tim Richards... moves with impressive confidence from boiling Latin rhythms to bebop, ballads and even a tinge of gospel, while still retaining his own recognisable style. He also understands the art of choosing a good programme, alternating standards like Billy Strayhorn's "Isfahan" and Horace Silver's "Safari" with a few of his own pieces. The cohesion that comes from playing together regularly makes this an impressive band." Dave Gelly THE OBSERVER


"They sound so American! This new edition of the Richards trio spends much of its time being bluesy and soulful, always letting the groove dominate.
This is well out of keeping with the fashion of the moment and makes for a refreshing change... Martin Longley JAZZ REVIEW MAGAZINE


"Pianist Tim Richards has consistently delivered a high quality jazz
product from the exemplary band Spirit Level to his more recent Great
Spirit, and here he takes a break from working with horns to perform in a trio context. The result is accomplished and not without poise; Richards is not afraid to use space, or to display his love of the blues... There are salutes in the direction of Ahmad Jamal, Horace Silver, Abdullah Ibrahim and others, plus a couple of originals that are all examined with his light airy touch, making the material sound fresh by the simple device of avoiding cliché." Stuart Nicholson JAZZWISE MAGAZINE


"A swinging groove characterises this set - yet there are tender moments too, and on strong material like Dizzy Gillespie's "Manteca" and Strayhorn's "Isfahan" we are reminded how the piano trio [format] gives fine players like these the opportunity to find new angles."
Pete Martin JAZZ UK MAGAZINE


"Tim Richards has been a fine pianist on the British scene since the late 1970s - fluently exploring a hard-bop and blues-inflected jazz... played with affection and charm." John Fordham THE GUARDIAN


"One of the best piano trio albums I have heard in a long time, irrespective of which side of the pond it comes from. The new release on 33 Records will come as pleasant surprise for anyone that immediately conjures up the Spirit Level band and McCoy Tyner when thinking of pianist Richards, who I'm sure by now is tiring of such comparisons when in fact his style is far more original...


This is a superb set that displays all the facets of Richards' playing
without resorting to flashy virtuosity, and shows the empathy between the trio through numerous gigs and tours. The band come out swinging on the opening Billy Taylor composition "It's A Grand Night For Swinging", and show a wonderful understanding and flexibility on the lovely "Ishmael" by Abdullah Ibrahim, which Tim describes as the most open tune on the album. It was recorded in one take with no prior discussion, and it's easy to hear how this piece may vary greatly from performance to performance.


This is an album full of surprises and highlights, with the trio playing
seldom heard standards such as "When Sunny Gets Blue", the toe tapping blues "Whims Of Chambers" by the bassist Paul Chambers, and Dizzy Gillespie's "Manteca", with drummer Matt Home very much to the fore. With a couple of neat originals and a tender reading of Strayhorn's "Isfahan", what more could you ask for?


The sheer musicality and variety of this set shows clearly the pianist's
heritage and knowledge of his idiom. Where his music takes him from here is far from clearly mapped out and defined, and I for one will be following his continuing musical journey with interest."

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