The last time we caught up with saxophonist Logan Richardson was back in 2013 prior to the release of NEXT Collective‘s critically-acclaimed release, Cover Art. Plenty has happened to Richardson since our last encounter with him three years ago, chief among them is the recent release of his Blue Note Records debut, Shift. The 11-track gem of a recording features 10 of Richardson’s sublime originals as well as an otherworldly rendition of the Bruno Mars hit, “Locked Out Of Heaven.”
Backed by a star-studded band of artistic legends including guitarist Pat Metheny, pianist and Blue Note label-mate Jason Moran, bassist Harish Raghavan, and drummer Nasheet Waits, Shift finds what Richardson dubs as his “dream band” into newfound musical territory that reflects the shared admiration and respect within the tight-knit quintet. We were fortunate enough to hop on a line with Richardson from his abode in Paris as we discussed his latest release via a long distance call.
Revive: Congrats on the new album and thanks for taking time for speaking with us.
Logan Richardson: It’s a pleasure. Thanks for taking the time also.
R: ‘Shift’ enjoyed an early release in Japan before it was available around the globe, what has been some of the reactions to your new material?
LR: One of the elements that I’m always curious about is when I get the opportunity to present music for new audiences. The reception we’ve gotten in Japan has been very warm and it’s been very well received. People seem to be pretty excited about the music, which is good for me and definitely good for the band.
R: You’ve mentioned in previous interviews how the personnel playing on ‘Shift’ is your dream band, and we’ll get to that in a minute, but I’d like to get your thoughts on what it’s like to have a legend like Pat Metheny play on your album.
LR: Oh man… Words certainly don’t exist to express what that means. He’s someone that I’ve listened to since I was 16 years old and I’ve always viewed him as a master. The whole experience and our relation is still really surreal. And it’s just gotten to a point where I just have to try to act as normal as possible. It’s crazy. I’m really at a loss for words. I would like to lock into a specific thing, but I don’t know if there is a way to describe it other than I am just inside of it.
R: I have a statement from Metheny, who said some very nice words about you. One thing that stood out in particular was this:
“I first became aware of Logan when I started hearing about him when he was a teenager. We both have strong Kansas City roots and even when he was a high school student all the best musicians in town were already talking about him. And I recognize the KC thing that I know so well in everything with him. When I hear this recording, I can see and dream about places around the city in an almost cinematic way. I feel an unmistakable connection to Logan that is traceable to our shared geography.”
Could you talk about the “KC thing” that both of you share?
LR: Pat is from Lee Summit and that’s just outside of downtown Kansas City. So he was still going to the Mutual Musicians Foundation at the Vine Disctrict and hanging out with all the older heads from Kansas City when he was teenager. So he’s been to a lot of the same places that I had a chance to come-up and develop when I was younger. I also had the fortunate opportunity to catch a lot of the same elders that brought [Pat] up as a youngin’.
We share a lot of places and people and a common structure of how we are both coming out of Kansas City. Pat’s a guitarist who revolutionized how his instrument exists in this music and in many other different types of music as well, so I’m well aware about who this person is. But at the same time, we’ve always been connected – his brother, Mike Metheny, used to talk about me to Pat when I was still in high school.
So it’s curious hearing these things 15 years later from Pat where he goes, “I have your first two albums and I really like your writing.” He was going in-depth about my music and I’m standing there like, “Wow, what’s going on?”
R: Wow. What an honor.
LR: Yeah, it’s been really great.
R: You went to Berklee after Kansas City, then from Berklee to New School in New York and now you’re in Paris. There’s no harm in moving to a beautiful city like Paris, but I’m curious to find out what some of the motivational factors that caused you to move there.
LR: I had been living in New York for 10 years back in March 2011. I decided to do a three-month teaching residency in Galicia, Spain. So I went there to do that and ended up staying for about eight months. After I arrived I kind of decided that I didn’t want to go back to New York – it was really kind of that simple. I was at a point where I had been wanting to transition and I wasn’t really sure where. So when I got to Galicia I was like, “Hey! This is cool for now.” Then in October of that year, I did a couple of concerts in Paris, hung out there for a couple of days and just fell in love with the city. So I moved to France in November of 2011.
Paris has been an extremely lovely city. The way artists exist inside of the French social government and social care – I mean, everything is far superior in many ways in terms of treatment compared to the States. So much of my work is [centered] in and around Europe, so having my base in Paris is even more of a central place for what I’m doing. I genuinely love it.
R: New York is sort of this central meeting place for a lot of artist who have an affinity for the type of music you play and sometimes we can take for granted all the many great events and concerts that take place in this tiny island on any given night. Do you ever miss it?
LR: Oh yeah for sure. The daily accessibility to jump into anything in New York and to know that something is definitely going to happen was something that I had to accept in my initial move. Fortunately, I journey back to New York several times a year, so I’m able to plug into that juice. I definitely miss that element.
New York taught how to structure bands, people, and how to understand what I want to get from musicians. So I don’t really miss it because I’m able to put into action into what I’m doing. New York was the last local scene that I played on, because when I moved to Europe I just decided that I’d make the world my local scene. It’s easier to work everywhere and evolve it.
R: You mentioned how Metheny talked in detail about your two albums and it’s been awhile since your 2008 release, ‘Ethos’, and ‘Cerebral Flow’, which came out a year before. How have you grown as a musician, composer, bandleader and as an artist since those two records?
LR: The number one thing is life. If we don’t have life then we’re none of these other things. A part of the move and the shift of coming to Europe and resetting a home base had a way of allowing everything that I had learned consciously and subconsciously to digest in my body. It really was a test to see who and what am I and how I was going to function after taking myself out of a place where I built something. You’re supposed to stay there (New York) for an undetermined amount of time and all these other ideas that people have in the back of their mind. What happens if I leave New York? It’s the infamous question.
All of these things pose a challenge on everything. It’s like okay, “How bad of a dude are you?” If you have a name, what is that name and how does it qualify to be? So you just dive right back into your art the same way you did before. Anything that I create comes out from the environment that I’m in. I’m not saying that I’m sitting down in Rome while drinking a cappuccino, so I’m gonna write a song called “Rome” and talk about how this drink tastes. I don’t knock anyone that does, because I think that can have a vibe. But those experiences go into what’s coming. Some of the songs could have been written in between that city and this city on the plane or in the airport.
I think my growth has come from how I’ve grown as a person and that is kind of the natural formation of how everything develops. I’m shedding my horn all the time and I’m working on different conceptual things within my playing as well as shapes. I’m also doing that with composition as well.
But it’s a fairly organic process for me and I like to think that everything has progressed in a positive form. I think it’s still moving because I don’t think I’m settled on this.
Stay tuned for the second part of our interview with Richardson.