Steph Richards is no stranger to challenging listeners’ expectations, helping them hear things they might not have previously imagined with experiments that range from playing underwater to incorporating a carousel into one of her compositions. But the trumpeter, composer and bandleader is pushing in a still more unusual direction with Supersense. Along with a trio of fellow all-star improvisers—James Carney, Brandon Lopez, Max Jaffee, and Kenny Wollesen—Richards taps acclaimed multimedia artist Sean Raspet to create singular, abstract scents embedded into the concert programs, using scent in a way to prompt musicians and the audience that avoids language and representation completely.
“What if I could create an experience where listeners felt even closer to the music by acknowledging other senses?” says Richards, alluding to the extra-musical elements of live performance that have been missing since the pandemic hit. She hopes that by playing to more than one sense, listeners will be drawn into the music more fully. “It’s meant to live in abstract wordless space,” she concludes. “One where we’re not exactly able to define where we’re traveling and what we’re feeling, but where we can be swept away by sensation.” This multi-sensory show begins with a film created by filmmaker Vipal Monga.
The second part of the evening shares music dedicated to the late J.A. “Dino” Deane and Lawrence D. “Butch” Morris, both purveyors of the pioneering Conduction approach that Butch coined and created. A longtime collaborator with Dino (they released a duo record in 2018) and a years-long performer under Butch, Steph picks up the baton in their honor to conduct an ensemble of deeply creative and beautiful Conduction collaborators including Brandon Ross, Doug Weiselman, Sarah Schoenbeck, and other special guests.
James Carney: piano
Brandon Lopez: bass
Max Jaffe: drums
Brandon Ross: guitar
“Listening through Steph’s music can feel like scrolling through an extravagant special effects library, one uniquely attuned to the human condition as well the remarkable expanse of music that makes up avant-garde and experimental Jazz. Sounding like everything from a synthesized Louis Armstrong to whales barking at the moon, Steph has created a sonic palette contoured perfectly to the bands she leads, as well as the internationally renowned artists she collaborates with. Working with everyone from Henry Threadgill, Anthony Braxton, and John Zorn, to Yoko Ono, David Byrne, and electro-pop star St. Vincent, Steph consistently finds ways to fit into music that often defies acceptable norms within a variety of traditional musical landscapes. Benefiting from a versatile technical toolset, fluid musical imagination, and ingenuity, Steph is delightfully indiscriminate when it comes to exploring the vast tonality of music she entertains.” — Kevin Whitehead, NPR’s Fresh Air