You may know Kim Richmond from his work as the long time alto sax player in Bob Florence's big band. If you're a Kentonian, you know he was on Stan's band for the Jazz Compositions of Dee Barton album. The discography on his website doesn't come close to listing all he's done.
The KRCJO is one of the heirs to Stan Kenton's Neophonic Orchestra in its pretension, but I mean "pretension" in a good way. There's a great deal of music that can be made by a big-band sized ensemble, and not all of it comes from the Basie book. Nor, as Richmond proves in this outing, need it come from the Kenton book. This music is Richmond's very own.
The thing that impresses me the most is its musical range: from a wonderfully white-guy funky arrangement of "America the Beautiful", to "Precious Promises" with its roots in the concert band repertoire, to a hallucinatory "Tumbling Tumbleweeds", to a fantasy inspired by "Stella By Starlight", to Bob Florence's melting piano solo in his guest appearance. This is rich material, and it deserves to spend some time in your CD player as you grow in appreciation of all that's in there.
So what's the music like? Well, Richmond's charts don't lack in melody, and there's some good contrapuntal part writing and terrific soloing, but the thing that grabs me is the evolving layers of tones and timbres on the slower pieces, not only good writing in themselves, but a rich setting for soloists that inspires them and keeps them on their mettle. He's influenced in this by Maria Schneider, of course (and admits as much in the liner notes). But Richmond takes it some different directions: Maria came from Gil, Kim from Stan.
And I've got to interject a word about "Tumbling Tumbleweeds". Not that the tuba player muttering about his faithful horse knocks me over, which he does, but rather that lots of people have tried simultaneous improvisation in a big band setting. Both William Russo and Willie Maiden tried their hands at it during their time on the Kenton band. But I think there's something new on "TT". Kinda like Kim asked himself "what would Carla do?" and then went farther still. Anyway, I love it.