There is no great shortage of accomplished jazz guitar trios on the British jazz scene, whether they are straight ahead and swinging or rock infused. The Paul Richards Trio bring something quite unique in that the leader plays a nylon string guitar with a virtuosic finger style technique.
The album opens with driving guitar arpeggios, underpinned by melodic bass motifs on the classical piece La Catedral, Allegro Solemne. Bideford is a gentle composition where the guitar and bass play in unison and occasionally exchange traditional roles as the bass melody is underpinned by a guitar ostinato. Richards shows his ability to take an idea & run with it on his solo as he carefully constructs & develops well crafted single note patterns. Double bassist Steve Thompson also puts in a fine solo which uses the full register of the instrument.
The Paul Richards Trio aren’t afraid to play a composition without taking extensive solos. Odeon & Dengoso are two such examples where the composition is the focus, along with the subtle, lilting rhythms from drummer Tony Sheperd.
On a musically diverse album, there are a few jazz standards for the more traditional listeners. The classic Jobim composition A Felicidade is played with a delicate samba feel. Thompson takes a bass solo which is almost textural in nature due to its use of repetition, spacious melodies and tension building double stops.
Thompson also utilises double stops on his intro to the Joe Henderson composition Inner Urge. Taken at a medium tempo and given a straight feel, the bass & guitar take the melody in unison for the most part before Sheperd embarks on a concise solo. Richards solos beautifully, weaving harmonically adventurous lines before bringing in more chordal playing to create a denser texture. Wayne Shorter’s Yes Or No is given a similar arrangement.
Simone Signoret brings the album to a close with more of a European folk music feel. The piece begins with a solemn guitar melody before incorporating a series of brooding chords.
Episodes is a brilliantly executed album, which is full of melodic richness and stylistic diversity.