Slim Richey x Jazz x Bluegrass

Slim Richey x Jazz x Bluegrass

It’s more than rare when players innovate. That moment of discovery and dissemination frequently ends up pigeonholing an act or a player for decades – and while that might be to a few folk’s advantage, it’s usually considered stilting, to say the least. Having that figured, folks that engender a specific genre shift are rarely again granted the prospect of regaining some sort of renown later on in their career’s. For whatever reason, Slim Richey has been given a few chances. There’s no disagreement about the fact that Richey had a hand in the ‘new grass’ thing that began taking over the traditional genre during the ‘60s and ‘70s, but by and large, his name is not one of those mentioned in the same breath as Sam Bush or Tony Rice.

It’s not without reason, though, that not just Sam Bush, but also Bill Keith and Ricky Scaggs all sat in on a session with the Texas bred guitarist back in ’78. By that late date, most of the folks on Richey’s album, Jazz Grass, had in some specific and important way impacted the genre. And to lend their time to this endeavor only points to the musical acumen of the session leader.

“It was the first album like that,” figures Surtner Brunton, who also had a hand in the recording sessions for Jazz Grass. The guitarist goes on to state that no one had attacked jazz standards in the way that Richey and company did. That point seems debatable, but what isn’t really an obscure opinion is the fact that this band – set up like some old tyme combo – was able to coax a sound not too distant from what Django Reinhardt and Stéphane Grappelli were up to prior to World War II (the big one). The point wasn’t lost on fans. And even if Richey has since gone into a sort of latter day anonymity, his prowess has not diminished in the least.

Working with “A Night in Tunisia” may have seemed odd to fans. But “To Linda,” which pretty much sounds like Miles Davis’ “So What,” could be perceived as the precursor to the David Grisman and Jerry Garcia recordings during the ‘90s.

Regardless, as Richey is still performing today – and with a much younger performer serving as a front woman – he maintains many of the same stylistic derivations that he was once noted for. The legend around all those ‘forward thinking’ players from the hey day of progressive bluegrass has continued to grow with Sam Bush performing live in something like a rock star trance, but Richey has kept a low profile. Surely, you can find him sprawled out all over the internet – and even Jazz Grass has been posted in more than one spot to initiate new fans. But despite the fact that all involved figured this specific recording as a water shed moment, it seems odd that Richey and his work aren’t better known. That probably won’t change, but if you’re in or around Austin, keep an eye out.