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Richard Howell and Sudden Changes News | Concerts
Saxophonist Richard Howell Celebrates "Burkina" CD Release

In the ancient language of the Mossi people of West Africa, the word burkina means "honorable." For his newest recording, Bay Area saxophonist Richard Howell has seized upon the word — and the powerful spirit that imbues it with deep meaning and history — as the title of his latest recording with his Sudden Changes ensemble.

The word also holds another special meaning for Howell.

"I had a strong desire to visit West Africa," explains Howell, "and in 2005 the opportunity presented itself for me to tour West Africa playing jazz music. Out of gratitude I felt compelled to give thanks and honor my horn. In a ceremonial atmosphere I chose to lift my horn to the African night sky facing the heavens, I christened it 'Burkina'."

"Burkina" the CD will make its official debut Saturday, January 16, in a special concert celebrating the new CD's release at the historic Herbst Theatre in San Francisco. Joining Howell and his multigenerational ensemble — pianist Frederick Harris, bassist Heshima Mark Williams, saxophonist Charles McNeal and Howell's 17-year-old son, drummer Elé Howell — will be the Oaktown Jazz Workshop's Youth Ensemble under the direction of Ravi Abcarian performing Howell's original music, arranged by Harris.

Recently honored as the recipient of the 2015 Isadora Duncan ("Izzy") Award for Outstanding Achievement in Music/Sound/Text for his performance at the Black Choreographers Festival at Laney College in Oakland, the Los Angeles-raised Howell came of age on the music of the great Count Basie. His father purchased hundreds of jazz records and would expose Howell and his siblings to the proud accomplishments of what his father referred to as "the music of Africans here in North America." Young Richard lived and breathed jazz daily.


Saxophonist Richard Howell & Sudden Changes

One day, Richard's father upped the musical ante with the music of John Coltrane, triggering a long-time love affair. That pivotal discovery led to the music of such jazz greats as Duke Pearson, Dexter Gordan, Stanley Turrentine, Roy Haynes, the Jazz Crusaders, Charles Toliver, Jackie McClean, Cannonball Adderley, Sony Stitt, Gene Ammons, Gerald Wilson, Rahsaan Roland Kirk, Freddie Hubbard, Dizzy Gillespie, Miles Davis, Clifford Brown, Horace Silver, Charles Lloyd, Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers, and Doug & Jean Carn... all mixed with healthy dollops from the Godfather of Soul, James Brown.

Howell has explored a vast spectrum of music. His powerful, sensually melodic saxophone playing has been heard with artists as diverse and definitive as blues/jazz/soul legends Etta James, Chaka Khan, Della Reese, Cecil Taylor, Don Cherry, Billy Higgins, Charlie Haden, Buddy Guy, Charlie Musselwhite, and Joe Louis Walker to such progressive Latin/Afro/rhythmic pioneers as Willie Bobo, Bill Summers, Pete Escovedo, and Mingo Lewis.

He has also been a strong presence in the Bay Area's jazz education in public and private schools and youth correction facilities as a member of founder and jazz drummer E.W.Wainwright's "African Roots of Jazz" as well as the Oaktown Jazz Workshops, founded by the late Khalil Shaheed.

Howell explains that the Sudden Changes ensemble performs what he calls "Bridge Music."

"This is music that bridges the past to the present leading to the future," he says. "In my original compositions I draw upon the ancestry of jazz , the essence of soul music, the sensibility of popular music and the spirit of a triumphant nation... Passion is its core, joy surrounds its exuberance and love just keeps it together."

Tickets for the Richard Howell & Sudden Changes CD Release Concert for "Burkina" are on sale now through City Box Office. Doors open at 6:30 pm, and the performance begins at 7 pm.

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