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Tom Richards Orchestra Smoke And Mirrors Review

Album. Released 2008.  

BBC Review

It's the details as much as the rich melodies or sense of generosity running...

Colin Buttimer 2008

Tom Richards is a mere 26 and only graduated from the Royal Academy of Music four years ago. However, the music on his debut sounds like the work of someone much older, though there's also a youthful exuberance at work that's distinctly beguiling.

The cast list for the Tom Richards Orchestra runs to no less than 23 contributors. The large forces at the composer's disposal are experienced enjoyably both as backdrop to initially brief, snakey solos and as musical gestures in themselves. There's no sense, however, of ponderousness - the music is lithe, fast moving and lusciously rich. Richards' arrangements are intricate without any intimations of fussiness. The music is at times suddenly joyous in a way that's reminiscent of UK forebear Loose Tubes or the Pat Metheny Group.

The opening track Dropping Pennies, is full of left turns, but somehow doesn't end up tracing circles. The paced percussion makes one think of Miles Davis' In A Silent Way though Richards' orchestral arrangement sounds more contemporary than the overtly modern work of that master. Jamie Cullum contributes careworn, richly textured vocals on Smoke And Mirrors. The almost 12-minute That's That Then begins as mournfully as the title might suggest before embarking on a wistful odyssey that transmutes into forceful propulsion through the agency of the leader's own soprano solo taken up by Gwilym Simcock on piano.

The electronic treatments on Smoke and Mirrors (of which it would be good to hear more of in Richards' future work), the surprise flamenco-esque handclaps towards the end of Liquor Bickering: It's the details as much as the rich melodies or sense of generosity running throughout Smoke and Mirrors that are likely to win you over.

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