Subtlety – with a generous dollop of swagger – is the pervasive quality that guitarist Jeff Richman conveys so luminously on this disc XYZ, which – if you took the title literally – might suggest something miscellaneous. This it is decidedly not. Quite the contrary, Mr Richman makes a very strong case for his composition skills and bluesy chops through the carefully chosen repertoire, the virtuosity, which speaks eloquently to a musician of his calibre.
Mr Richman exemplifies this music with the unquiet roar of the guitar making its way through long-limbed lines constructed from poignant phrases. As the principal character of his melodic excursions Mr Richman leads his quartets – two or three iterations of them – through narratives. Melodic lines, harmonic variations and rhythmic pulsations are full of impressive restraint, gilded by expressive decorum, all of which is shaped with perfect time.
Storylines – in the cases of such songs as Be Cool, the delightfully beckoning and tongue-twisting Optamystical – are presented with lively, flowing narratives. The portrait, Ray Barretto, is elegiac – as befits someone held in high esteem as Mr Richman holds the legendary Puerto Rican conguero.
Appropriate to each song on the album is a sound palette that is stretched, bended and put through a magic of layering. This is led by the velvet roar of Mr Richman’s extraordinary musicianship on electric guitar. But it also comprises fine performances from keyboardists George Whitty, Scott Kinsey, Mitchell Forman and Otmaro Ruiz, bassists in the form of the inimitable Jimmy Haslip [who provides compelling realisations of the intriguing rhythmic lines] and Dean Taba.
Meanwhile the rhythmic wall is kept glued together by the elegant drumming of the celebrated Vinnie Colaiuta – with Gergö Borlai contributing skills on Lost Date. Trumpeter Jeff Beal blows his heart out on the svelte composition, Be Cool.
Throughout the repertoire Mr Richman performs with consummate artistry, blending superior control and tonal lucidity with a cohesive sense of line and motion. The rest of the stellar cast give of themselves with deeply interiorized and idiomatically brilliant routines. Music could hardly be better served than by such excellent artistry.
Music – 1: XYZ; 2: Be Cool; 3: Optamystical; 4: Ray Barretto; 5: Left Right Here; 6: Lost Daze; 7: Likewise; 8: Bar 55; 9: She’s Got to be Somewhere.
Musicians – Jeff Richman: guitar; George Whitty: keyboards [1, 3, 5]; Scott Kinsey: keyboards [2, 6, 8, 9]; Otmaro Ruiz: keyboards ; Mitchell Forman: keyboards ; Jimmy Haslip: bass [1, 3 – 9]; Dean Taba: bass ; Vinnie Colaiuta: drums [1 – 5, 7 – 9]; Gergö Borlai: drums ; Jeff Beal: trumpet 
Released – 2023
Label – Blue Canoe Records
Runtime – 43:29