There are two chances to see trumpeter Rex Richardson this week with two very different all-star groups. Wednesday night he is fronting the free Dominion Jazz Café gig at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts with Hard Bop Emporium. Friday, he returns to Brun in the Fan (203 N. Lombardy) with the quartet that provided one of the best nights of music last year.
An internationally lauded virtuoso, Richardson is a marquee member of the Virginia Commonwealth University music faculty. He is equally at home playing knotty modern classical compositions in orchestra halls around the world – including multiple performances with the Richmond Symphony- or improvised music in an intimate club. He has impressive and imaginative control across the full range of instruments from the mellow flugelhorn to the high-frequency highwire piccolo trumpet. According to fellow trumpeter and VCU jazz program head Taylor Barnett, his talent is grounded in an impressive efficiency in sound production, allowing him to glide through lines that would have most adept players struggling.
The Hard Bop Emporium features the great local saxophonist, JC Kuhl, and rhythm section featuring bassist Michael Hawkins, drummer Kofi Shepsu, and pianist Dr. Weldon Hill. The VMFA Atrium is cavernous, with ample tables typically filled with a large crowd of regulars. Admission is free, but it pays to arrive early.
The Brun Experience is a throwback to old-school smoky venues, albeit with 21st century air handling that makes it tolerable for non-smokers. Located in the space that, depending on how long you’ve been in town, has been Poor Boys, Flora, Balliceaux, or Bogart’s Back Room; now it is both a cocktail and cigar lounge, with a central aisle of leather armchairs.
The exceptionally tight foundation of Richardson’s band here - pianist Daniel Clarke (k.d. lang, multiple others), Andrew Jay Randazzo (Butcher Brown), and Brian Caputo (John D’Earth), has been honing their interplay at a weekly Monday gig at Charlottesville’s Oakhurst Inn. The same line-up’s gig here in mid-November 2022 was one of the highlights of the year.
Rex Richardson’s Hard Bob Emporium plays the VMFA Dominion Energy Café from 6-8 p.m. on Wednesday, Jan. 25. Admission is free.
The Rex Richardson Quartet plays at Brun from 9-11 p.m. on Friday, Jan. 27. Admission is $15 at the door.