“A virtuoso of otherworldly trumpet sound” (Jazz Times), Steph Richards takes takes a literally transformative experience (Richards was six and a half months pregnant during the session) and shapes a concise, visceral album both in concept and in practice, exploring a more immediate connection between her body and her work. “This record expresses the idea of breathing one breath for two bodies — moving through the world with two distinct pulses happening at the same time”. Alongside pianist Joshua White, Richards found inspiration in her embodied self instead of attempting to sideline it on Zephyr’s three suites, which amount to an intense 38 minutes of forcefully original sound.
For most of her career as one of the most acclaimed improvisers working in jazz’s avant-garde, trumpeter, composer and bandleader Steph Richards worked hard to make sure that her music was considered on its own terms, rather than — as is so often the case in jazz and music as a whole — in the context of her gender.
But when she went into the studio to record her upcoming album Zephyr in 2019, Richards was six-and-a-half months pregnant. That literally transformative experience shaped the concise, visceral album both in concept and in practice, forcing the thoughtful, cerebral artist to explore a more immediate connection between her body and her work.
“I was experiencing my own metamorphosis, and thinking about the idea of breathing one breath for two bodies — moving through the world with two distinct pulses happening at the same time,” Richards explains. “It brought this a whole other color to my sound precisely because I had a different physical ability. Our bodies are full of potential, and that’s something that I had never fully investigated. ”
The first suite, “Sacred Sea,” features Richards playing her trumpet in water throughout. She’s been refining that technique since 2008, but here it takes on new meaning as Richards plays on the idea that her in utero child was, in a sense, breathing underwater. One of its movements, “Anza,” is named for her daughter, whose breath can be heard on that track; other movements are named for gods/goddesses of water and wind.
“What I love about water is that it’s vulnerable and unstable — you can never know exactly what sound you’re going to make,” Richards explains.
As a whole, the resulting record is one of the trumpeter’s most intimate to date, both in its duo orchestration and in its tactile, focused expression.
By expressing the rootedness and inspiration she felt during her pregnancy in abstraction, Richards hopes that her listeners will hear the universality of that experience — the beauty and richness of creation — instead of its ties to any particular gender. “Your humanity is visibly evident when you’re pregnant,” she says. “I hope this record reveals a sonic element to this new experience of humanity.”
released October 15, 2021
Steph Richards (trumpet, flugelhorn, resonating water vessels)
Joshua White (piano, preparations, percussion)
Recording, Mixing and Mastering Engineer: Andrew Munsey
Artwork and Design: Michael Ramey
Executive Producer: Kevin Reilly
Produced by Andrew Munsey & Steph Richards
Recorded at Studio A, Warren Music Center, UCSD, 2019.
© & Ⓟ Welcome To My Kitchen ASCAP. All rights reserved.
For Anza Frances