Richard Lloyd Giddens Jr. – Mimosas (2017)

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As the bassist for the experimental metal-jazz burning Ghosts, Richard Lloyd Giddens Jr. brings the thunder. As the leader of his first date Mimosas (Orenda Records), Giddens brings the grace. Lots of it. It’s a musical love letter to his native Fresno, California, but instilled with the seventeen years Giddens learned, woodshedded and grew as a musician away from home, in New York and L.A.

Giddens got going on his maiden solo project at the prodding of Burning Ghosts band mate and Orenda founder Daniel Rosenboom. Like many first-time leaders, Giddens assembled a band comprising of guys he trusts the most. Kneebody pianist Adam Benjamin, Red Oak Duo guitarist Storm Nilson, and Los Angeles Collective saxophonist Matt Otto all studied along with Giddens at the California Institute of the Arts, where they learned first hand from jazz bass legend Charlie Haden, who started up CalArt’s the Jazz Studies Department. Giddens knows drummer Tomas Fujiwara from their time together in New York.

Unlike other first time leaders, Richard Lloyd Giddens asked each of these musicians he trusts to contribute a composition a piece to add to one original of his own. And then, they finish off the album with four covers, two from the jazz realm and two from the pop world. Recorded in Fresno, these ten compositions from ten composers are connected by an overarching manner of thoughtful performance, a group-wide air of sophistication that still leaves room for individual expression.

“Storm” is anything but stormy, a delicately played folk melody that calls to mind Brian Blade’s Fellowship band. “Inhibitor” is a percolating, mid-tempo number where you can really appreciate the solid state, bass-drums unit; Benjamin and Nilson put in polished asides.

Giddens’ bass poetry introduces “Toasting The Mart.” Afterwards, it’s driven by the restless drumming of Fujiwara, even as Otto’s tenor sax lines offers a soothing counterbalance. “Ayler” is nothing like its presumed namesake Albert Ayler; instead, Otto’s sax speaks softly in the Charles Lloyd dialect.

“Mimosas,” Richard Lloyd Giddens’ own tune, a solid sound mass derived from a repeated pattern where the entire quintet moves delicately, gradually throwing caution to the wind when Fujiwara abandons timekeeping and goes off the hook. But everyone else maintains some composure and a hold on the harmony. The momentum pushes the band right into “Spartacus,” where Giddens goes up front with a groove-laden bass figure, and Nilson takes the baton with a tasty rock-jazz lead over “So What” chord changes.

Thelonious Monk’s “Ask Me Now” is a sensitively portrayed piano/bass duet. “Waltz #1,” an Elliott Smith cover, is a soulful showcase for Otto and an eighteen-year-old prodigal trumpet talent by the name of Julian Knowles. After a unique introductory segment, the noble melody of Simon and Garfunkel’s “The Sound of Silence” is played faithfully and accentuated by asides from Nilson and Giddens. The blues “Turnaround” from Ornette Coleman is in a sense a tribute to the late, great Haden, as this song was one of his favorites. Pared down to only a piano-bass-drums trio, it swings agilely and effortlessly.

Richard Lloyd Giddens Jr. is an accomplished bassist, to be sure. But the main accomplishment of Mimosas is to bring in all these disparate colleagues and disparate composing pens and mold them into a united, purposeful musical statement that one can sense accurately portrays the complexion of its singular leader.


S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron is an SQL demon for a Fortune 100 company by day, music opinion-maker at night. His musings are strewn out across the interwebs on jazz.com, AllAboutJazz.com, a football discussion board and some inchoate customer reviews of records from the late 1990s on Amazon under a pseudonym that will never be revealed. E-mail him at svaaron@somethingelsereviews .com or follow him on Twitter at https://twitter.com/SVictorAaron
S. Victor Aaron
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