Check out this great feature from Oregon JazzScene Magazine from last May! Thanks to Rita Rega for the kind words:
JSO Musician of the Month – Grant Richards – May 2016
By Rita Rega
Instrument: piano, composer
Early Years/Education: This is kind of a transitional time for me. I have been back from Berklee College of Music for a year and a half. I grew up in Portland and Randy Porter, Gordon Lee, and my dad were my main teachers. Dad was my first teacher and as a kid he threw me in the deep end with Bach. He pushed me a lot. At a certain point I joined a jazz big band. Dad did not have any experience with that. I got into the big bands of Thara Memory, Ronnie Harrison, and Greg McKelvey. I went to Cleveland High School in Portland. Gordon Lee was my first jazz teacher and after a point he suggested I try Randy Porter. I went to the jazz summer camps and got thrown into the Mel Brown scene which led me to Thara Memory.
I applied to different colleges on the east coast and got a full ride to Berklee. I really enjoyed Berklee. I had great teachers and met people internationally. As a result, I have a network of people I know around the world. I was at Berklee from 2009 to 2013. I got a B.A. in Performance with a minor in Music and Society. I also enjoyed the liberal arts there, too. They have shared faculty with colleges around Boston. Coming out of Berklee I was referred to a teaching gig in India for three months. I taught jazz to eighteen year-old music students who were mostly guitar players. Because they already knew how to read music, we were able to jump into the nitty gritty of playing jazz. After India I came back and taught kids in Boston and then recorded my latest album Numinous. The title means “being in the presence of something divine.” It makes you feel in awe, overwhelmed and inspired all at once. Numinous was definitely inspired by my
experiences in India.
In 2017, I will be releasing my next project Grant Richards and Numinous. This will have all original material, all my tunes. In general, with this second Numinous recording, I was thinking about writing the kind of original jazz that contains all of the elements that people my age want to hear. The beat is different. It has a groove closer to hip-hop; trying to make it relevant for people my age. For me, the elements that really make it jazz are lots of improvisation, a high level of musicianship, dynamics up and down, and really listening to each other. Also, I am a piano player so I love cool chords. It is going to be a live album but we will toy with sound design after the fact. Maybe adding in some spoken word. I flew the guys in, recorded a whole new album, a live recording with a live engineer. Charles Burchell (drums) is from New Orleans, and Zwelakhe-Duma Bell Le Pere (bass) was born in South Africa but grew up in Connecticut. The guys went to New England Conservatory and we all met in Boston.
Musical Influences: Randy Porter, Herbie Hancock, Hampton Hawes, Charles Mingus, Thelonious Monk, Hal Crook (Boston educator), Bill Evans, Hank Jones, Tommy Flanagan, and Wayne Shorter.
Most Satisfying Experience: Recently, I had a duo piano performance with my teacher, Randy Porter. That was very satisfying. We played some Cole Porter, Charlie Parker, and some different things. I studied with him for maybe fifteen years. Another really satisfying experience was the teaching gig in India. It was my first time teaching jazz and using the Berklee curriculum of ear training, harmony, etc. I taught at the Global Music Institute in New Delhi which was founded by two Berklee graduates who originally hailed from Delhi. I wrote so many songs when I was there because I was so influenced by just being in such an exotic place. It was the catalyst for an entire album of all original music.
Favorite Recordings: Hampton Hawes – Blues For Bud, Oscar Peterson – Hello Herbie, Bill Evans – At Town Hall, Stevie Wonder – Innervisions, Herbie Hancock – Flood, Charles Mingus – Ah Um, Wayne Shorter – Speak No Evil, Cannonball Adderly – Cannonball and Coltrane, Chick Corea – Now He Sings, Now He Sobs, D’Angelo – Voodoo.
Discography: When I was fourteen my first album was called Extra Step (2004, self-produced), Circa 5:55 (2010, self-produced), Numinous (2015, self-produced). As a sideman I played piano in the John Wood Trio’s Chasing Ghosts (2015, self-produced).
Gigs: With Nancy King at the Bijou Cafe, Friday, May 20th. I am subbing for Gordon Lee in the Mel Brown Septet on two Tuesdays, June 7th and 14th with my old teachers at Jimmy Mak’s. I will be playing piano on the American Empress Riverboat on Sunday, June 26th and Saturday, July 9th.
Future Plans: I am moving to Tokyo in July. I got offered a piano teaching job for one year at Jacob’s International Music School. Run by Jacob Koller. Japanese people find it very important to practice their English, so Koller’s angle is to have them practice their English and learn an instrument at the same time. He is very successful and expanding the school. Also, I plan on releasing my next album in 2017. I will be still living in Tokyo when this happens. I would like to try New York. I am hoping Tokyo will be a back door into the New York scene.