Tom’s love for playing trumpet began in high school. His band director, Jim Lunsford, a former national band director of the year and band director at Falls Church High School in Northern Virginia, was inspiring, relentless, an excellent musician, and very funny! He created a community of high school musicians and a support system of parents that was unparalleled at the time. The band constantly sent players to all-region, all-state, and all-American bands. Many students in the first band studied with musicians in the U.S. Military bands in Washington, D.C.. Tom studied with Lonnie Leard, euphonium soloist in the U.S. Navy Band. In 1969, Tom was honored as the first guest student instrumentalist to ever appear with the United States Air Force Band in Washington, D.C..
“I am so fortunate to have been in a high school with really good teachers and student-musicians. The band-community was just that: a community of friends, musicians, and people that cared for each other. I am so indebted to them.”
For the last 40 years Tom has been teaching at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, serving as Jazz Studies Coordinator for twenty years, and teaching 25+ courses, primarily in jazz studies, applied music, and music history. He earned two music degrees from The University of Tennessee, Knoxville, where his prinicipal mentors were Bill Scarlett and Jerry Coker. During the 1970s he spent an eight year period as a free-lance trumpeter, touring with pop stars like The Jacksons (including Michael Jackson and Janet Jackson), Diana Ross, Lou Rawls, The Temptations, The O'Jays, Tom Jones, and The Spinners (with whom he worked under Maurice King, the Motown/International Talent Management, Inc. Music Director and former Music Director with Billie Holiday). He also performed with Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis, Jr., and many others.
"I had a musicians' union card in Atlanta and worked there a lot in the 1970s into the early 1980s. One memorable concert featured Frank Sinatra and Sammy Davis, Jr.. Frank had a reputation for liking the guys in the band and he hung out with us for a while between the rehearsal and the performance. He was very laid back. For someone in my generation, who had listened to all of Frank's records, especially those with the Count Basie Orchestra, worn them out, actually, it was very cool."
“It’s funny. I was addressing the student body at Grace College in Taiwan a few years ago, and had been encouraged to tell the students the names of a few musicians I had performed with, including Frank Sinatra. When I mentioned Frank’s name no one reacted. Not a peep… But when I said, 'Michael Jackson,' I thought they were going to explode they were so excited! It wasn’t quite like the Post-World War 2 ‘Beatle-mania’ or the 'Jackson-mania' that I personally witnessed in the 1970s, but it was quite a stunning contrast with the stoic response to Frank Sinatra. Go figure! I remember one night in New York City and the crowd was going bonkers over Michael. People were throwing money and jewelry onto the stage like Michael was some sort of deity... It's one of the most bizarre scenes I've witnessed in my 50+ year career in the music business."
Tom has also performed with many jazz artists, most notably, Pharoah Sanders, Gregory Tardy, Jerry Coker, Jack Coker, Mark Boling, Jon Hamar, Keith Brown, Donald Brown, Stan Samole, Willie Humphrey, David Champagne, Scott Giddens, Bill Scarlett, Charlie Spivak, Art Porter, Sr. and Jr., Charles Thomas, Gene Rush, Ted Ludwig, Stefano Sabatini, David Champagne, the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra with Buddy Morrow, Hank Needham and the Riverboat Rhythm Kings (aboard the Steamer The Mississippi Queen), Rocky Wynder, Maasej Kovacevic, Abel Kovacevic, Billy Degnats, Wally Brath, Rusty Holloway, Buck Powell, Dave Rogers, Ken Walker, Brian Brown, Joe Vick, Ted Seibs, Rick Carfa, Mike Choby, and (with the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra) with Ella Fitzgerald, Nancy Wilson, and Buddy Rich. In academic settings he’s performed with more jazz artists, e.g., Airto Moriera, Wynton Marsalis, Jack DeJohnette, Maria Schneider, Alvin Batiste, Don Menza, Gary Foster, Victor Wooten, Carl Fontana, Chuck Rainey, Michael Parkinson, Willie Thomas, Sam Zambito. and, briefly with pianists Bruce Dudley and Anthony Belfiglio at the College of Music and Performing Arts at Belmont University in Nashville.
“I find it quite stimulating when musing upon being uniquely created in God’s image. The qualities revealed in each of the musicians I've been blessed to perform with create an awareness that should humble us all. That ultimately determines who I am (and am becoming), and how I function. There are wonderfully documented accounts describing how Duke Ellington consistently chose to say good, yet accurate, statements about the people who played in his bands, even the difficult musicians... And this was when he easily could have chosen negative things to say. Instead, he chose to focus on the good! That’s what I want to do. We must learn to look for and see the reflection of the Creator in others. And He is good, and does not change!!"
Tom also serves as Doyen with International Cultural Exchange (ICX), an organization that promotes cross-cultural exchanges in the arts and education for the purposes of enlightenment, understanding and compassion. ICX helps facilitate international performance tours, cross-cultural teaching/mentoring opportunities and peer networking for artists and educators.
“I am so thankful for the community of musicians and teachers. The musician/professors we have recruited for our ICX tours are awesome, and I've learned so much from them, from Gregory Tardy’s incredible musicianship and love for the Creator, Mark Boling’s sense of humor, intellect, unassailable faith, and unassuming personality, to Jon Hamar’s humor, jazz and classical abilities, and easy-going nature, to Jeremy Lane’s incredible gift of administration and desire to help needy professors, his understanding of human nature and his sense of humor, to Wally Brath’s capacity for both the classical and jazz styles, sense of humor, and deep thinking, Bruce Dudley's amazing wide range of stylistic abilities, sensitivity and gentle demeanor, and Randy Tinnin's sensitivity, understanding, and desire to serve students of all ages. These are all highly educated and capable people who love students, and yet they are so appropriately unimpressed with themselves!"
Tom's been honored in a number of ways. He was inducted into the Arkansas Jazz Hall of Fame (2014), Visiting Professorships at Qingdao and Binzhou Universities in China (2014-17), Arkansas Jazz and Heritage Foundation Person of the Year (1993), and a National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Fellowship (1986).
He is the lead author of The Mystery of Music, 2021 Evening Films, (2012 McGraw-Hill Learning Solutions) and a contributing author of The Jerry Coker Figure Reading Series – Rhythmic Studies Of Today’s Music, 1987 Studio PR Columbia Pictures Publications.
His greatest honor, however, is being married to Brenda, being a father to two daughters, a son-in-law, and a grandfather to seven grandchildren, a great grandfather to a great grandchild, a brother, a brother in law, a best friend to Robbie and Dan and their wives, and a son of the Father. "I know I don't deserve any of them, but claim them I do!"
James 1:17a states that "Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights..." Whether it's my love and fascination for the uniqueness of my family given from the image of the Father of Lights, or the incredibly diverse creativity found in music, it all points back to the Perfect Father who loves his family perfectly. We just need to look for it, and listen for it. Listen well my friends.
Whose Streams Make Glad (2023) is ready for mastering and manufacturing. It includes Tom's mainstream and modern jazz compositions and features several guest musicians, including the swing big band leader and trumpeter Charlie Spivak, saxophonists Jerry Coker and Billy Scarlett, pianists Jack Coker, Gene Rush and Charles Thomas, drummers Billy Degnats, Keith Brown, and Dave Rogers, and many others.
Eklektrik (2023), is likewise ready for mastering and manufacturing. It features 12 Richeson compositions, all jazz rock fusion and featuring the Steiner EVI (Electric Valve Instrument). NOTE: Both albums will soon be uploaded to this website.
Gift of Wind (2020) with jazz artists Gregory Tardy, Mark Boling, Jon Hamar, Keith Brown, Jay Gentry, Charles Thomas, and others.
Jazz Tracks (2014) A Jazz Tracks review at www.allaboutjazz.com by Senior Writer C. Michael Bailey received 4 1/2 out of 5 stars. http://www.allaboutjazz.com/php/article.php?id=49627
A Tribute to Jerry Coker (2005)
Goose Bumps (1991)
GIFT OF WIND
"It was truly an honor to work with this mix of musicians; a mix of older and newer faces. But among all of the participants to this project, Tom Richeson’s performances stand out; by his beautifully crafted vocalized tone, and by his wide pallet of musical expression. Professor Richeson’s mastery of the style of Miles Davis is on full display throughout the project; particularly on the gorgeous “Doxology Prelude” as well as the concluding “Postlude”.
Gregory Tardy, Jazz Saxophonist and recording artist, University of Tennessee Professor of Jazz Saxophone
"in my forty-five years of service as a university professor and administrator, it is very rare to encounter such a well thought out and executed album produced by a university professor, regardless of genre or style."
Michael Parkinson, XO Trumpet Artist, Professor and Director of the School of Music (retired), Middle Tennessee State University
"Tom’s trumpet playing always is melodic, warm, inspiring and sometimes quirky. His improvisational style on trumpet draws much from the musical intent of Miles Davis recordings of the ‘60s, ‘70s and ‘80s. Richeson often uses the multi-track studio performance setting to create an interesting effect by alternating and overlapping harmon muted trumpet with open trumpet. He sometimes uses electronic effects like wah-wah and delay in an appropriate and tasteful way."
Mark Boling, Jazz Guitarist, Professor of Jazz Guitar and Jazz Studies Area Coordinator (retired), University of Tennessee
"As a trumpeter, Tom displays a keen awareness of his historical precedents (Miles Davis most notably), but has also managed to inject his own fresh perspectives on orchestration, melody, and arranging. Additionally, he has collected a consort of supporting musicians more than capable of realizing his musical vision. Their performances on this record are beautiful and reflect consummate musicianship."
Jeremy Lane, Director, School of Music, Belmont University
"Great contemporary jazz and improvised music is alive and well under the leadership of trumpeter, composer and arranger, and multi-instrumentalist Tom Richeson. His recent release Gift of Wind... is a sonic testament to this. The balance of consistent artistry with variety of repertoire, stylistic approach, and instrumentation is achieved not only over the whole recording but within individual tracks.... The junction of jazz with gospel, and improvised music in general, continues the important contributions of musicians like Mary Lou Williams, Dave Brubeck, Hank Jones, and Ira Sullivan."
Jamey Simmons, Director of Jazz Studies, Middle Tennessee State University
"I was first amazed at the variety of styles, personnel, ages of musicians and background of these talented folks. The uniting factor throughout this musical offering is Tom Richeson. He has undoubtedly chosen these specific individuals to work with for good reason and it comes through in the performances. The result is a cohesive musical package that offers great performances and at times heavy harmonic and rhythmic food for thought. ...the stylistic span from shades of the seminal Miles Davis quintet of the 1960s to music for meditation to swung funk."
Jon Hamar, Bassist with the Jeff Hamilton Trio and the Clayton Hamilton Jazz Orchestra, Assistant Professor of Bass, University of Tennessee
"The first thing to strike me upon listening to this recording was the incredibly high level of artistry displayed by Tom and his colleagues, Their jazz improvisation skills are quite formidable, but are always tempered by a sense of what best serves the music. Tom's muted trumpet work, in particular, comes as close as anyone I've heard in evoking the spirit of Miles Davis, which is no mean feat. Musically, this album covers many sub-genres of jazz (fusion, straight-ahead, etc.), as well as incorporating elements of Gospel and even hip=hop. However, the personality and collective chemistry of the musicians are strong enough to ensure that the album has a sense of consistency and its own "vibe." ...I believe 'Gift of Wind' represents an important contribution to the art form."
Tom Strait, Professor of Trumpet and Jazz Studies, Minnesota State University Moorhead
"[The Gift of Wind project] is everything I had hoped for and more. The musicianship is, of course, top notch...but I had wondered how the message would translate or if it would get lost in brilliance of the performances. I'm happy to report the message shines through in ways I never dreamed possible. It works as a complete concept but also taken singularly within the individual parts. I listen to it often… and discover something new with every listen. To blend secular music with a spiritual message is no easy task as, normally, one or the other dominates. Those perfect blends (Coltrane's A Love Supreme pops to mind) are rare. In my opinion [Tom] achieved this rarified air. "
Thomas Coleman, Owner, Downtown Record and CD Emporium, Hot Springs, AR, and Play it Again, Knoxville, TN
"...beautiful, full-bodied, and sincere." C. Michael Bailey, All About Jazz
"...a gift of winds!" Ellis Widner, Arkansas Democrat-Gazette
"Inspired playing, arrangements, orchestration, and tasteful wind controller." Stan Samole, jazz guitarist recording artist
"...great control and mastery of the EVI." Matt Traum, Patchman Music
"...mastery of the EVI and Trumpet, impressed with his writing, BRAVO!" Jim Self, recording artist, University of Southern California Music Professor
"...musicianship is of a high caliber …the material is superior!" Al Schmitt, Grammy award winning engineer, (Home and Studio Recording, October 1992 review of Goose Bumps)
"...impressed me tremendously..." George T. Simon, author