Exclaim.ca November 2010
RICHARD UNDERHILL Free Spirit (Stubby)
Underhill is likely to remain best known as the leader of beloved beatnik jazz combo Shuffle Demons, but he's been forging an impressive solo career. His three earlier discs all scored Juno nominations (the first, Tales from the Blue Lounge, won), and this fine effort will likely keep the streak intact. As the title hints, there's a vibrant vibe to this record, one solely featuring tunes composed and arranged by Underhill. He gives his colleagues room to shine, a smart decision with cats this talented. Trombonist Ron Westray is a Wynton Marsalis alumnus who catches the ear, teaming with Underhill's spirited sax work. Pianist Dave Restivo stands out on "Hustle Up," an infectiously upbeat tune, while the strong rhythm section of Artie Roth and Larnell Lewis round out the core combo. Underhill mixes hard bop and contemporary flavours, and a tune like the suitably tender "When You Fall in Love" shows he has a nice touch with ballads. A bonus is the live DVD, featuring extended workouts on songs from Free Spirit, alongside some earlier favourites.
The WholeNote September 2010
RICHARD UNDERHILL Free Spirit (Stubby)
Here’s another winner from the Richard Underhill stable, a sure candidate for assorted end-of-year awards and, for once, a CD and DVD package that works. It’s a studio session so passionate you could believe it’s live, plus a DVD recorded at Lula Lounge last October that entertains for more than 90 minutes, plus a bonus segment containing the leader’s incisive jazz opinions. Make sure you experience Free Spirit (Stubby Records SRCD-7734 www.richardunderhill.com). The CD line-up’s interesting with Underhill’s alto and the trombone of Ron Westray, late of the Lincoln Center Orchestra and now at York. Their companions are pianist Dave Restivo, who plays with marked intensity, plus hardworking bassist Artie Roth and all-action drummer Larnell Lewis. All nine tunes are by Underhill, whose snarling horn sound on This House and Hustle Up might raise your neck hairs. Westray’s speed is remarkable and skittish, both horns swinging hard, dabbling in exhilarating free jazz outbursts. Great inventions are the clever Positive Spin and the anthemic Be Strong, Be Strong. The DVD session allows more solo room and also brings in edgy, rock-influenced guitarist Eric St. Laurent and for three tunes djembe (hand drum) exponent Michel DeQuevedo. Consistently sharp and engaging, the groove’s ever-present with delightful forays on Blakey’s Bounce and Bike Lane. This is challenging, complex and robust music, ranging from lyrical to incendiary, yet still communicating with pleasing ease.
'one of the best-sounding (CD's) of the year'
NOW Magazine - Toronto - December 15/2005
RICHARD UNDERHILL Moment In Time (Stubby) Rating: NNNN
It's hard to believe this follow-up to his 2003 Juno winner, Tales From The Blue Lounge, is only Underhill's second solo album. As a founding member of the Shuffle Demons and a noted session sax player who puts in time with Blue Rodeo, Underhill seems to have been around forever. This album, co-produced by Jono Grant and Underhill, continues to deliver the goods, and may be one of the best-sounding of the year. All the better to hear the intense rhythm section, especially on Perry's Place and Day Off, where the drums and bass create an organic, driving force for Underhill and keys master Luis Guerra to go off on wild warring solos. Competition here is healthy, bringing out the best in everyone, with Bob Brough's tenor sax sweetly countering Underhill's alto. A thoroughly modern take on modern jazz, à la Coleman and Hawkins.
'a resolutely swinging affair, focused and mature'
Eye Weekly - Toronto - November 24/2005 - CD guide - Moment in Time ***
'For a long time, the word restraint didn't seem to be in Richard Underhill's musical vocabulary, but the man who led 900 saxists in playing the Hockey Night in Canada theme last year has delivered a small-group jazz album that sounds both focused and mature. Moment in Time is a resolutely swinging affair, mostly in a 1960s post-bop vein, featuring thoughtful and committed playing from Underhill and sidemen, as well as some memorable original charts. Occasionally, though, it feels more accomplished than exciting;its best moments, such as in the feverish drum 'n' bass-referencing "Morse Code," find the musicians exploring intriguing new territory. Should Underhill manage to imbue his current group more consistently with his Shuffle Demons' exuberant, experimental spirit, he'll surely turn the Canadian jazz world on its ear.'
'shape-shifting pieces that show off rich harmonies'
Toronto Star - November 10/2005 - Moment in Time (*** 1/2 out of 4)
Richard Underhill of the Shuffle Demons won a 2003 Juno award for 'Tales from the Blue Lounge' and his strong follow 'Moment in Time' (***1/2) is surely in with a prize chance. It's official release is Tuesday at the Montreal Bistro. The alto saxophonist's quintet playing his 10 compositions has expert foils in tenorman Bob Brough and yet another Cuban piano prodigy, 21 year-old Luis Guerra.
Underhill is comfortable and frequently thrilling in all areas and gets bustling aid from his pulse duos bassists Mike Milligan or Graig Earle and drummers Joe Poole or Daniel Barnes, plus occasional guests.
The groups scramble effectively with contemporary, dense-themed and shape-shifting pieces that show off rich harmonies and opportunities for heady outside playing
'second album builds on considerable promise'
CODA - Richard Underhill Moment in Time Stubby Records SRCD-7732
Altoist/composer Richard Underhill's second disc away from the often-comic contours of The Shuffle Demons builds on considerable promise. While he works in familiar territory, Underhill has a keen ear for detail as a bandleader, a neat talent for finding the right elasticity in his tunes-not bad at all on a set that features the choice of two different bassists and three different drummers-and good lungs and ideas as a soloist. It all comes together especially well in sly tracks like "A Few Things" and "Chasing the Sun," which never stay quite the same as you might expect, while "Traffic" is fairly mischievous with Joe Poole's canny drumming. As for detail, check the opening of "Morse Code," with its sprinkles of piano (Luis Guerra) and pulse bass (Mike Milligan). Can we get a live album next?
'A stellar effort'
Echo Weekly - Kitchener - Tales From The Blue Lounge
...'tales from the blue lounge' is a stellar effort and well deserving of the Juno kudo. The feeling harkens back to the mid-late 60s jazz in the style of Rollins or Cannonball Adderly. Underhill himself refers to this sound as "modern vintage," an apt description.
The compositions are a somewhat diverse collection of 10 tunes with nothing too outrageous or too mundane - just solid joyful tunes filled with rollicking solos and a delightful feel all around. Some parts are positively Demonesque while others harken back to a New Orleans style. This is an lp to get lost in and be totally happy about it. Highly recommended!
'A real treat!'
Tales From The Blue Lounge Richard Underhill | Stubby Records
Tales From The Blue Lounge is Canadian alto saxophonist Richard Underhill's debut solo album and the winner of the 2003 Juno Award for Jazz Album of the Year. After a long and winding career that has included membership in the eclectic Shuffle Demons and the electronica-based Astrogroove, this disc of ten original compositions finds Underhill exploring classic sounds that wouldn't sound out of place on a mid-1960s Blue Note Release.
"Surfing" kicks off the album with the fleet confidence of a fighter entering the ring, bouncing about, eager with anticipation for the bell to sound. Underhill, tenor saxophonist Bob Brough, and bassist George Koller each take strong, assured solos, seemingly feeding off the shared confidence. Notice must also be given to the fine production that captures the drive and presence of the band, not just on this track, but throughout the album.
Elsewhere, Underhill employs ensembles of varying sizes, adding a welcome sense of range to the proceedings. The title track sways with a Latin groove, aided by added percussion from Luis Orbegosa and Jose "Papo" Gonzales. "Big" struts soulfully with driving guitar from Jake Langley and shimmering organ from Dave Restivo. "The Old Guys" features a clever arrangement from Underhill that skillfully references some sunny big band motions, with a dash of Mingus' gospel fire.
Tales From The Blue Lounge is a real treat-an album inspired by past musical forms that never sounds tired or dated. Old-fashioned styles are summoned with real joy and a knowing wink. This is accomplished and assured music that has the added benefit of being a lot of fun.
'Underhill emphasizes prime Blue Note muscle'
CODA, September 2003 - Tales From The Blue Lounge
'Underhill emphasizes prime Blue Note muscle in his original music with a a big sound that triumphs whether he's teaming with the tenor of Bob Brough or fronting a horn section rooted by Chris Gale's baritone. "Big" purrs on guitar, organ and conga and "The Blue Lounge" is a sexy rumba. The sweetest surprise is "Lazy Afternnon," a ballad without apology - Johnny Hodges with added lemon. Underhill may prove the missing link between mass appeal and dignity'
'Lives up to the accolades'
Soundsoftimelessjazz.com - Tales From The Blue Lounge
Canadian alto saxophonist Richard Underhill delivers a hard-swinging CD that lives up the accolades it has received as 2003 Juno Award winner Jazz Album of the Year. TALES FROM THE BLUE LOUNGE reference jazz greats that range from Monk to Mingus to Ornette Coleman to Henry Mancini. The set opens with "Surfing," a hard-swinging tune that features Underhill's excellent command of the alto saxophone's range and dynamics. From honks to fog blasts and everything in between, you feel the improvisational excitement of his grooves. He closes with "Chillin'" a soul jazz swinger that is in direct contrast to the opener. With guitar, organ and great blowing by Underhill, this song swings with a feeling that harkens back to the 50s style of jazz when Jimmy Smith reigned on the organ. With a great solo by organist Dave Restivo, this song echoes enough sentiment and vitality to place him in the modern realm of new B3 players. Produced by Richard Underhill for Stubby Records, this recording is available at at www.richardunderhill.com
'A wonderfully diverse and appealing album.'
Allaboutjazz.com - Tales From The Blue Lounge
For those familiar with the jazz scene in Toronto during the eighties and the next decade will remember the impact the Shuffle Demons had. Richard Underhill was the leader and founding member of the band that flipped jazz over not only through the initial impact of their colorful costumes, but also with their outstanding musicianship. The Shuffle Demons split in 1997 and Underhill went out on his own and recorded his debut album in 2003, with a wealth of Canadian talent. It is well worth revisiting.
Underhill uses several idioms in his music. He does not miss out on the connect as he gets deep down into the groove and comes up with rhythms that sizzle. He drives the point home right away as "Surfing" gets off on a funky edge shifted by George Koller on bass and Ted Warren on drums. Underhill takes his alto into the curl and loop, his lines taut yet delving to capture the nuance of the melody. He breaks away to prod and probe letting Bob Brough to bring his big sound on the tenor and parlay a path that etches some deep lines. A great balance, indeed! Underhill utilizes an octet to give voice to "Big." This is a big (!), brawny production, the sound initially driven by Dave Restivo on organ before Jake Langley illumines the path on the guitar, countenanced by the horns in particular Underhill as he burrows a red hot trail. The title cut has a big band, 11 musicians gathering for a rumba which glides into sensuality on the horns. But Underhill is not content to rest on one aspect. He shifts time and tempo to give the song a broader scope, and in that a stronger impact. There's more in the way of marvelous tunes that make this a wonderfully diverse and appealing album.
'Solid but fertile musical directions'
Planet Jazz International Jazz Review - Tales From The Blue Lounge
This album has an infectious street quality earned honestly by Richard Underhill, with his Shuffle demons work, while evoking a 60's sensibility. Underhill has enlisted the talents of a variety of familiar artists in various combinations to support each piece. The band's performance has the feel of a journey through the complex ebb and flow of a large metropolis.
This feeling is deftly established in the opening drive of "Surfing," with fine horn harmonies from Underhill's alto and the tenor work of Bob Brough. Following this is a Monkish rendition of "Mr. Fezziwig," which included an appropriate contribution from the piano of Dave Restivo. The tune "Big" is strongly suggestive of a '60's TV theme song, perhaps from the pen of Quincy Jones. This is especially true wit the addition of Restivo's organ work; he also shines on "Blues for Suze," as does the guitar playing of Jake Langley. Completing the period feel is a rumba rendition of the title song, with the horn harmonies illustrating the kind of work Underhill has been doing as an arranger for other artists for the past few years. On "The Old Guys" the music delves into a very swinging, up-tempo shuffle jive style, as it does on the tune "Chillin." Also contained on this release is a wonderfully riffy piece called "Pegasus," which is paced precisely by the drumming of Ted Warren, who never fails to play right on top of the beat.
This effort reflects the solid but fertile musical directions and ideas of Richard Underhill who, I'm sure, will be beard from again in the future.
Roger Viner 2004