The French horn has never been one of jazz's more prominent wind instruments. If cornetist Buddy Bolden was playing what listeners now call jazz as early as 1895, the French horn had suffered at least 105 years of neglect as a jazz instrument when the 21st century arrived. That's regrettable, but it isn't necessarily bad news for French horn player Richard Todd -- the fact that jazz hasn't had nearly as many French horns players as saxophonists or trumpeters means that the instrument is still relatively fertile ground for him. Although Todd is quite capable of playing classical and pop, With a Twist is essentially an album of acoustic-oriented post-bop. This laid-back disc, which was recorded in 1999 and 2001, shows how expressive a soloist he can be. Todd's approach to the French horn is comparable to what Chet Baker did to the trumpet, Stan Getz did to the tenor sax, and Bill Watrous did to the trombone; in other words, he plays his horn in a very lyrical and caressing way. Todd's cool-toned lyricism is something to savor on original material as well as songs that range from "Days of Wine and Roses" to "Emily." Like so many acoustic jazz CDs, With a Twist has its share of standards that have been beaten to death -- "In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning" and Thelonious Monk's "'Round Midnight" are among the songs that jazz fans have heard countless times. But because Todd is such an appealing soloist, one is inclined to be forgiving. And to his credit, he also unearths some material that hasn't been overdone. "Race," for example, isn't among Duke Ellington's better-known pieces. All things considered, With a Twist is an likable, if imperfect, CD that Todd can be proud of.
Share this page
AllMusic Review by Alex Henderson