Review: James Richardson Trio & Music Friends

July 31, 2023 | 1 Comment

[Written by Dale Butler]

Saturday, 29th July, 2023 at the legendary Leopards Club at 8pm, The James Richardson Trio and music friends gave a packed house a foot-stomping, pounding, frenzied, hardcore, and rhythmic concert.

Such an astounding performance would have easily topped the Apollo Theatre, the Blue Note, Ronnie Scott’s and Village Vanguard Jazz Clubs—plus, any show seen in Bermuda from the Clayhouse Inn and Southampton Princess to Chili’s Patio. Entertainer and Bermuda music aficionado, Freeman “King” Trott, would have given it 20 stars.

We enjoyed jazz, reggae and gospel music. I felt as though all of those hours spent on my living room couch, being “compelled” to listen to a variety of music from classical, to jazz, calypso, gospel, etc, merged in one night and was bigger than the Cuban and Montreal Jazz Festivals I had not long experienced. Every emotional button was easily pushed by the profusion of Bermuda’s musical talent that showed up by the ton.

It was an exceptional night: ignited by James Richardson and organized by drummer Stefan Furbert and the Leopards’ Club Entertainment Committee who ensured things were well-prepared and moved smoothly.

The night opened with Hannah Eggen on guitar. She appeared unfazed by the chatter in the room and once the audience heard her voice silence prevailed as she sang songs like:

  • “You Must Believe Me” by Asa
  • “Flying High”
  • “Redemption Song” [Bob Marley & The Wailers] and others. Hannah was excellent on guitar, has a beautiful voice and great stage presence. This was her “Shining Hour” and she used the time well.

James then stepped on stage and had an instant magnetic effect when he touched just one key. He rolled out the red carpet with great pride. The fire was lit and an extremely enthusiastic audience were energized for 4 hours of jazz, soul and reggae by James on keyboard, Wency Woolridge on guitar and producer Stefan Furbert on drums, and later supported by the many local guest performers who gave their all to make this the absolute best show I have ever seen in my life.

James Richardson Trio Bermuda July 2023

There were a number local entertainers in the past who had presence when they walked on the stage, and the audience just melted: Lance Hayward, Gene Steede, Pinky Steede, June Caisey, Boots, et al. On Saturday, it was James Richardson. The room became quiet in anticipation of a great night, and James had super powers that had vastly increased since relocating to England. We sat like children as he used a very subtle introduction that lured us into his net and when captured we were happy to spend the entire night in his midst. Unbelievable, with every song and word he spoke. Exceptional! He laid the foundation and built a musical house that has never been seen in Bermuda and I’ve not experienced worldwide.

What a repertoire James brought to the stage: described by the Bermuda Entertainment Union’s President Selena “VaVA” Fields as “mastery” and patron Darnel Raynor as “just magical,” with:

  • The melodic and harmonic “Moanin’” by Bobby Timmons
  • The 12-bar minor blues, “Mr. P.C.” composed by John Coltrane [1959]. The very conservative Wency was radiant as he dominated during his solo.
  • “Bye, Bye, Blackbird” composed by Ray Henderson and lyricist Mort Dixon: made famous by Miles Davis. Stefan made sure everyone knew he was NOT rusty on drums. The late Clarence “Tootsie” Bean would have given him a standing ovation.
  • “Ain’t No Sunshine” by Bill Withers [1971] where he added a reggae version and prestissimo. Outstanding!
  • “Cantaloupe Island” composed by Herbie Hancock [1964 - Empyrean Isles album on 1976 album Secrets]. I had just seen Herbie Hancock at the Montreal Jazz Festival. James did the song justice with his exceptional version that would have Herbie still standing, applauding and smiling. Yes, it was that good. Trombonist, Graham Maule and saxophonist Cher-Ann Raynika Brangman were brilliant.
  • “Summertime”: Pamela Butterfield, Ms. Utopia, established a foundation as a creative blues singer with her exceptional range. Rarely heard these days: she left a lasting impression.

At this stage, James burned the playbook, the train had left the station and was smoking hot as he and the band reached the mountain top with the songs just sizzling to rapturous support. Heads bobbing, feet tapping, and not a soul left the auditorium. It was intense.

It was obvious, with adrenaline boiling, that the show was not going to end at 11pm. Suddenly, a huge box of extraordinary talent exploded, releasing stellar performers known and unknown as follows:

  • Sheila Smith and Phiemma Caisey [singers] with Cher-Ann Raynika Brangman [saxophone]: “Sweet Love”, “Turn the Lights Down Low” and “Love Won’t Let Me Wait”.
  • Whitney Institute student Na-Zuri Hayward: “The World is a Ghetto”
  • Larita Thomas Cartwright and Sheila Smith: “Jesus You’re The Center of My Joy” by Richard Smallwood and “One Moment In Time”.
  • Shelton Bean, Leroy Francis, Erwin Leader [drummers], Mitchell “Live Wires” Trott, Desta Zion, and Ramon Clark.
  • Arigenae Hukporti: “You’re the Best Thing That Ever Happened to Me” [2004 Bermuda Idol winner]. Where has she been hiding?

As the evening came to an end: with shouts of glee and questions asking for a repeat and a bigger venue, producer Stefan Furbert shared how he had thrown his drumsticks in the grave, for two years, when his close friend Antonio McQuilland “Jughead” Dill [Burning Ice] passed and how he had to reflect and bring back his drumming skills. It was a powerful testimony: especially to some who think planning such events is easy.

He and the Leopards Club are deserving of commendation and support. Those who attended will be talking about the event for years to come. A new benchmark has been set and I look forward to more shows of this caliber.

- Dale Butler is the Professor of Bermuda Music. His new campaign started July 19, 2023, The Vinyl Record Collective [Bermuda] where he is attempting to collect records and cds before they are incinerated. After refurbishment of any records the funds will be used to pay “hustlers” looking for short-term employment. He can be reached at 595-9841 or

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  1. Cynthia Aberdeen says:

    Thanks Dale Butler!
    For your vivid and alive Reports;
    And the Memory Lane of Bermuda’s Musical Greats! King Trott would be bubbling over with joy
    and pride at the at the accomplishment of his
    little cousin James Richardson and all who who
    We’re instrumental in planning and originating the resurgence of life through this Musical Extravaganza for the many who gave of their talents.
    Thank you again Dale Butler for bringing the Evening Alive.
    Much Obliged.
    Cynthia Aberdeen.

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