CD reviews

Logan Richardson – ‘Afrofuturism’

Logan Richardson – Afrofuturism (Whirlwind Recordings WR4772. Review by Tony Dudley-Evans) Afrofuturism, Kansas City-born saxophonist Logan Richardson’s fifth album, has a fascinating narrative thread through blues-influenced ensemble pieces interspersed with short spoken word pieces, ballads, duets. and a tribute to trap, a type of hip hop. In this, Richardson’s concept reminds me a little of Kendrick Lamarr’s To Pimp a Butterfly, not sonically, not even musically, but organisationally, in the way it moves through a series of varied episodes that create a cohesive statement.   The core of the album comes in the longer tracks featuring the latest version of Richardson’s Blues People band with Igor Osypov on guitar, Peter Schlamb on vibes and keys, Dominique Sanders on bass and two drummers, Ryan J. Lee and Corey Fonville. These tracks come at the beginning with The Birth of Us and towards the end with three tracks, Round Up, According to You and Praise Song, and a bonus track, I’m Not Bad, Just Drawn That Way.  These have a big exciting sound and are described by Richardson as “Zappa, Queen, Brian Wilson and Radiohead meets Schoenberg in a sci-fi ’80s lounge” I see them as a kind of electric blues with a very full synthesised sound driven by the two drummers and in which Richardson’s keening sound on the alto sax sometimes comes to the fore while at other times it blends in with the mix.  Sometimes his sound seems to me to be too low in the mix, but perhaps I am missing the point. In between these tracks we have a short spoken word introduction (actually the first track of 49 seconds) to the album from Stefon Harris, a ballad from vocalist Laura Taglilatela, a short song from Richardson’s great grandmother, a couple of duets, one featuring Richardson with cellist Ezgi Karakus, the other with Richardson accompanying himself on alto sax, piano and synth. Then there is a short spoken word track with Busta Rhymes, an instrumental tribute to ‘trap’, a type of hip hop heard in the southern states of the US. Taglilatela appears on several tracks, singing ballads, but also as part of the overall ensemble mix. As I understand it, Afrofuturism draws on science fiction, for example the novels of Octavia Butler, to predict a different future for the world that involves the intersection of Black diaspora culture with technology.  Musically, it draws on the music of the Sun Ra Arkestra and George Clinton’s Funkadelic to create a mix of jazz traditions with modern electronics.  This album is an excellent example of where music under the banner of Afrofuturism is going.
Afrofuturism is released on Whirlwind Recordings on 12 March 2021

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