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Switch on your senses: Steph Richards sniffs out the possibilities

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Sirius Pakzhad
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Words often fail when trying to describe music. So we must activate our other senses — and why not the sense of smell? Trumpeter and composer Steph Richards sniffs out the possibilities with Supersense.

On this episode of The Checkout, Richards talks first about that groundbreaking album, the jazz world’s first scratch-and-sniff listening experience. She created it in collaboration with scent designer Sean Raspet, who created nine unique fragrances. Some may be more pleasant than others, but all are sure to evoke a strong response.

Richards released aromas such as “The Gentlest Insect” and “Bunker” (they smell better than they sound) in the recording studio for her bandmates to take a whiff. Pianist Jason Moran, bassist Stomu Takeishi and drummer Kenny Wollesen responded musically, in brilliant and unexpected ways.

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Courtesy of Artist
Supersense: Stomu Takeishi, Kenny Wollesen, Steph Richards, and Jason Moran

The second portion of this show takes on Richards' latest creative endeavor, Zephyr, a duo recording that explores the outer edges of jazz composition. There may be some musical ideas jotted down on a lead sheet, but in general the canvas is wide open. Joining her is pianist Joshua White, also on the bleeding edge. Together they take us on a journey that “explores the sonic and visual territory of water,” as depicted in her latest music video directed by Vipal Monga.

As you’ll hear, White is not accustomed to playing his instrument in a traditional sense, although his classical and jazz training is clearly present. When Richards dips the bell of her trumpet underwater to make gurgling tones, White in turn deploys an array of magnets, paper clips and gaffe tape to pluck inside the piano.

Steph Richards premieres Supersense, a multi-sensory experience, along with musical tributes to J.A. “Dino” Deane and Lawrence D. “Butch” Morris, tonight at Roulette in Brooklyn.

For more than 15 years, Simon Rentner has worked as a host, producer, broadcaster, web journalist, and music presenter in New York City. His career gives him the opportunity to cover a wide spectrum of topics including, history, culture, and, most importantly, his true passion of music from faraway places such as Europe, South America, and Africa.