“She Vanishes is an album of intimate moods, but expansive designs”
Vicki Richards is a violinist who’s plugged in and globally wired. And she has been since we started playing her music back at the dawn of Echoes in 1989 with the original version of her album, Parting The Waters. She’s played on albums by Steve Roach (The Serpent’s Lair) and Black Tape for a Blue Girl (Remnants of a Deeper Purity) and released four solo albums since then, but her latest, She Vanishes, is the most complete realization of a sound that was always based in world fusion motifs and classically-tinged melodies.
You can hear it in the energized groove of “Trail Head (Berkshires)” with Richards soloing freely across the two-handed guitar maze of Mitch Kopp and the Indian tabla percolations of Jeff Deen. The title track on the other hand, takes a more elegiac approach, with Richards and Koop dueting as Richards layers and loops her violin creating electric string sections in a work that soars over a serengeti plain.
While the imagery Vicki Richards has employed in the past have put her in the New Age category, (and a CD of guided meditations called Cleansing Water – Pura Vida amplified that image), her music has always exhibited an edge and improvisational daring that reveals her to be a fusion burner at heart. You can hear it in her freewheeling solos as well as the arpeggiated guitar riff that runs through “Midnight Whisper,” recalling The Mahavishnu Orchestra’s “Birds of Fire” without the electric firestorm roar.
Richards is a modern violinist, expanding her instrument with loops, harmonizers and other effects that often turn her into an orchestra as she does on the serene but relentlessly moving “Driving Till Dawn,” creating string beds while soloing down the midnight highway. Even when she plays solo, it’s not merely solo as she turns herself into a string ensemble on tracks like”Riding the Thermals.” She plays with the expression of an Indian sarangi on another solo track, “It Was Love,” an alap of serpentine violin and trailing string pads.
Richards has had good musicians on all her albums, but there seems to be a special simpatico between her current trio. Kopp and Deen latch onto grooves that seem to hover between India and Africa and Kopp especially lays the groundwork for several tracks, like “Ocean Sun.” His two-handed tapping brings out bass lines and ostinato pads that propel the track.
Vicki Richards’ She Vanishes is an album of intimate moods, but expansive designs. It’s the Echoes CD of the Month for April.
~© 2011 John Diliberto
you can see a video and listen to songs from the CD on the Echoes Blog>>
Vicki is one of the most amazing improvising musicians on the planet!!! I am so very honored to have her on a number of my recordings!
Review: “She Vanishes” by Vicki Richards
Released Jan.31 2011 by Temple Street Music, Inc.
Vicki Richards very generously credits her co-musicians, Mitch Kopp and Jeff Dean, as co-composers of the music on “She Vanishes”. She is best known in the music world as an Indian violinist who has fused her Indian skills with her knowledge of Western music to produce a unique fusion. Misters Kopp and Dean are fine composers in their own right.
Her four earlier CDs were unfortunately buried in the pigeonhole of “new age music,” as this one is probably doomed to be as well. It isn’t that there aren’t some other fine composers who are also mistakenly put in this category, since they too don’t easily fit into any other. It’s just that there are so many other CDs which are labeled “new age” that are nothing more than someone who knows virtually nothing at all about music, who noodles about on his electric organ playing with the special effects buttons, and then gives his meandering nonsense quasi-mystical titles that are supposed to aid the listener in their meditation practice, or provide appropriate background music for a massage.
The point is, Ms Richards’ new release is a unique masterpiece. It does not easily fall into any category, but if I were to place it in one, it would be jazz. It is cool, relaxing jazz to be sure; but it is also sensual, sultry and subtly stimulating—even healing. The harmonic structures are often modal, like Indian music, and some of the melodies are also derived from Indian melodies; but most are not readily recognizable as Indian. They are truly original.
From the point of view of Western classical music, it is romantic, in that it is mostly programmatic, and attempts to describe either the beauty of nature (e.g. “Trail Head (Berkshires”)), or to describe an inner state, or even inner journey (e.g. “Driving Till Dawn”), much like a Chopin Ballade. From the point of view of Indian music, on the other hand, these are Ragas, in that they all intend to color the emotions, and succeed magnificently in doing so.
It is a shame that releases like this don’t receive adequate airplay in virtually any market anywhere. The fact that they don’t fit neatly into one of the recording industry’s prescribed pigeonholes, means that the radio stations that specialize in those pigeonholes rarely get to even hear such recordings, much less give them any air time. If there are any program directors out there reading this, perhaps at a university radio station, or jazz station, I would strongly encourage you to give this CD a listen. It fits in that most rare and wonderful of all pigeonholes: beautiful.
Bob Russell 2/2011
Dear Vicki… not only are you a great violinist but a magnificent musician/composer !!!
I will definitely be playing your new masterpiece in my waiting room, who my patients claim it’s the most peaceful place to put their thoughts together while listening to the pleasant sounds of your music.
J.Perez, M.D., Miami FL Feb 2011
Haven’t heard about her in a long time, but these videos make it clear that she’s still “got it,” and in a beautiful way.
Music Professor at Univ of Miami, School of Music Feb 2011
Improvising Violinist, by Julie Lyon Lieberman
The Violin In India, Journal of the Violin Society of America, Vol. V., No. 3.
An Interview With Dr. N. Rajam, Journal of the Violin Society of America, Vol. V., No. 3.
Vicki Richards-Violinist, electric, acoustic-Improviser-Composer
Reviews And Past Performances
Vicki’s 3 Solo Recordings have garnered praise and are included in:
Billboard’s top 100 Progressive Recordings List
Billboard Guide to Progressive Music:
“New Age Music clearly a leader in the field. Parting the Waters is worthy of the highest possible recommendation. It’s an album that possesses genuine beauty, poignancy and depth of feeling so many extraordinary qualities that it achieves a rare universal appeal.”
“Jaw-dropping agility on the violin is truly astounding focused and intense improvisation. Completely original, totally captivating, a startling journey through classical North Indian, Far Eastern and modern melodic styles, wrapped in mesmerizing layers of rhythm and harmony raging solos, majestic, delicate.”
San Francisco Chronicle:
“Mining an area of sound between world music and jazz if she were on a major label with a big ad budget, you would already know Vicki Richards’ name because she would be a star.”
New York Times
“Exhilarating performance… a purely Indian style”
Northern Indian Patrika, Allahbad, India
” Vicki Richards gave a performance at the Sangeet Samiti yesterday that proved that East and West can meet…Her exposition of Rag Jog drew wide appreciation from the audience. Her ‘tans’ were well thought out, developing logically…She demonstrated faultless understanding of the rag and frequently shower the influence of her teacher Dr. N. Rajam.”
“An exotic tapestry of sound!”
” Vicki Richards sounds soooo sweet!”