Richard Elliot brings tour to Largo April 29

Richard Elliot brings tour to Largo April 29

Richard Elliot performs April 29 at Central Park Performing Arts Center in Largo.

LARGO – Tenor saxophonist Richard Elliot will perform Saturday, April 29, 8 p.m., at Central Park Performing Arts Center, 105 Central Park Drive, Largo.

Elliot is currently touring in support of his 2016 album “Summer Madness.”

Tickets start at $39.50. Call 727-587-6793 or visit largo­arts.­com.

When he began work on the follow-up to 2014’s critically acclaimed “Lip Service,” Elliot knew exactly what he wanted to do according to a press release provided by Michael J. Media Group.

Elliot was looking for something funky.

“When I was growing up in the ’70s and first learning to play the saxophone I was mostly attracted to instrumentally based R&B and to jazz that had R&B roots,” he said. “This record definitely goes down that path, leaning more on the funk side.”

Elliot also knew precisely who he wanted to accompany him on the new music.

“I wanted to involve my band,” Elliot said. “A lot of artists tour with a group of musicians, and then when it’s time to make a record they hook up with a producer and go into the studio and use completely different people that maybe they’ve never even met before. I feel that if you’re lucky enough to have a regular group of musicians that you work with, and you don’t draw on their talent and their inspirations, you’re short-changing yourself.”

“Summer Madness,” released September 2016 via Heads Up, a division of Concord Music Group, is a new kind of recording for Elliot. First, the cast includes two other horn men augmenting Elliot’s signature sax work. Joining him are trumpeter/trombonist Rick Braun, who also produced the album and, on several tracks, baritone saxophonist Curt Waylee.

In addition, the music on “Summer Madness” was created from scratch as Elliot and his handpicked musicians formulated and honed their ideas in the studio, with Braun’s ultra-capable guidance. For Elliot, recruiting the additional players and having the entire band – plus a well-respected veteran producer help him shape the music – was integral to the project’s success.

“I didn’t want to direct them,” he said. “I wanted to bring them in and let them be part of the process – the writing, the arranging – and to do it all together. I had a lot of confidence that these guys are mature enough musically. Everybody brought what they do to the table and we all put our heads together. We didn’t have rehearsals first, we didn’t have writing sessions first. We booked some days in the studio and the music just poured out.”

The result of these impromptu jams – seven new originals and three classic interpretations – is unquestionably one of the most electrifying and gratifying recordings of Richard Elliot’s three-plus-decade solo career.

It should come as no surprise to Elliot’s longtime fans that he would, at some point in his career, choose to celebrate funk in such a dedicated, decisive way. It was, after all, with the legendary Tower of Power that many first heard the saxophone virtuosity of Elliot. Although he was born in Scotland and grew up in Los Angeles, where he started playing saxophone while in middle school, his five-year run with the Bay Area institution ToP during the 1980s was when Elliot first came to prominence.

“I learned more about being a musician, about being a performer, about being a team player in a horn section, about how to make a statement when you step out and do a solo, from being with Tower of Power than from any other group or artist I ever worked with,” the tenor saxophonist said.

Elliot admits it was “initially terrifying” to find himself among some of the most accomplished and highly respected musicians on the funk/R&B scene. In fact, he learned enough from working with them, Elliot says now, to know that he was ready to go off on his own when he did.

“Leaving Tower of Power was the hardest decision I ever made,” he explained.

But great things were to follow almost immediately.

By the late ’80s, Elliot had launched his solo career and was signed to Blue Note Records, where he worked with the legendary record executive Bruce Lundvall, an early champion of Elliot’s work. Since then, Elliot has released more than 20 albums as a leader, and has also polished his chops serving as a sideman for a considerable list of diverse giants, including Motown hitmakers Smokey Robinson and the Temptations. One of Elliot’s favorite projects was the collaborative 2013 release “Summer Horns,” which found him teaming up with fellow sax-slingers Dave Koz, Gerald Albright and Mindi Abair – the album was nominated for a Grammy in the category of Best Pop Instrumental Album.

Throughout all of his music, Elliot has always strived to achieve one certain goal.

“Miles Davis said, ‘The hardest thing for a musician to do is sound like himself.’ That stuck with me,” Elliot said. “If you fixate on a single influence, you tend to sound like someone who’s trying to sound like that person. I never know if I’ve achieved that goal but on occasion I’ve had someone come up to me and say, ‘I heard a song on the radio and I knew it was you.’”

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