Kim Richmond is a Left Coast saxophonist and arranger who has won his bread performing in pop-oriented settings. Well respected and sought after, Richmond has made several recordings as a leader. On Refractions, he opts for an impressionistic/expressionistic big band sound, music that ebbs and flows, demanding the attention of the listener. There are no mindless blues here.
Refractions is composed of nine originals and standards that are handled in an opaque and abstract manner. The results are lush indeed. Richmond's two opening compositions illustrate his unique and intentional approach to introspective big band. "Continued Obscurity" features tenorist Glen Berger in a serpentine solo. Richmond opts for low brass and reeds solos on "Precious Promises," which has Bob Carr on bassoon and Bruce Fowler on trombone.
Pianist and arranger Bob Florence lends his considerable talent to the lengthiest piece of the record, a fantasia on "You Must Believe in Spring," and is given a broad latitude for soloing with alto saxophonist Jeff Driskill and trumpeter Ron King also contributing bright solos. "Stella By Starlight" is plush with Joey Seller's informed trombone solo. The hoot of the disc is ten minutes of "Tumbling Tumbleweeds." Almost everyone gets into the action on this cleverly orchestrated and very unlikely jazz standard. Following a lengthy brass and reeds introduction, the bass introduces us to a swinging, slightly off-kilter take on this Bob Nolan classic. Glen Berger again solos on tenor saxophone, as does trumpeter Clay Jenkins and leader Kim Richmond.
It is difficult to dislike big band music as finely crafted as this. If you're looking for Basie or Ellington, look elsewhere. Otherwise, if you seek something a little bit different, this disc might just be for you.