Not to be confused with the Dublin-born actor of the same name, Richard Todd is a versatile French horn player who can handle straight-ahead acoustic jazz as well as pop, rock and European classical. Todd, who lives in the Los Angeles area, is far from a jazz snob; in addition to playing with classical orchestras (including the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra and the Santa Barbara Symphony), he has done countless pop/rock sessions. Nonetheless, the sound that Todd brings to his instrument owes a lot to straight-ahead acoustic jazz; specifically, jazz's cool school.
Known for being extremely lyrical and having a soft, mellow, caressing tone, Todd has been greatly influenced by cool school favorites like Stan Getz, Miles Davis, Chet Baker, and Gerry Mulligan. In fact, one could easily argue that Todd is to the French horn what Davis and Baker are to the trumpet; Bill Watrous is to the trombone; Lee Konitz and Paul Desmond are to the alto sax; and Lester Young-influenced players like Getz, Zoot Sims, and Paul Quinichette are to the tenor sax. If Watrous is "the Stan Getz of the trombone," Todd is arguably the Stan Getz of the French horn; an instrument that, historically, has not played a prominent role in jazz. Over the years, jazz has had some talented French horn players here and there, and they have ranged from Sweden's Hakan Nyquist to Sharon Freeman, John Graas, Tom Varner, and the great Julius Watkins (who has been called the "Charlie Parker of the French horn"). Nonetheless, the French horn has not been nearly as prominent in jazz as the saxophone or the trumpet; for that matter, it isn't as common a jazz instrument as the often neglected trombone.
Todd has also been heavily influenced by third stream, a style of jazz that incorporates elements of European classical and chamber music. The French horn virtuoso is obviously well aware of third stream heavyweights like the Modern Jazz Quartet and arranger Gunther Schuller, who Todd has collaborated with on more than one occasion. But for someone who can be such an appealing jazz improviser, Todd has devoted a great deal of time to non-jazz pursuits. The L.A. resident became a very in-demand session player in the '80s, when he backed pop stars who ranged from Barbra Streisand, Kenny Rogers, and Madonna to Latin icon Julio Iglesias. And in the '90s, the non-jazz artists who employed Todd on their albums included, among others, Bette Midler, Michael Bolton, Sheena Easton, and Barry Manilow. Todd was also employed on albums by various jazz artists in the '90s, including Billy Childs, David Benoit, and Shirley Horn. The early 2000s found Todd signing with RCM, which released his melodic straight-ahead jazz album, With a Twist, in June 2002.