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Rex Richardson, "Jazz Upstairs: Live at the Bar-Guru-Bar" (Summit Records)

Trumpeter Rex Richardson is a Richmond resident, but he seems to live in the air, flying to a dizzying array of venues around the world. He has the rare gift of being equally adept at interpreting bracing modern classical compositions with microtonal precision and cutting loose with jazz improvisations of freewheeling, slurred brilliance.

While his last CD, "Masks," focused on composed works of polished elegance, "Jazz Upstairs" is an after-hours, loosened-tie affair. The CD was recorded with excellent sidemen at one of Athens' most exotic nightspots — a floor-by-floor layer cake of Thai restaurant, pillow lounge, bar, electric music club and jazz club.

Despite the exotic location, the music is deceptively straightforward, the underlying complexities and unconventional time signatures folded into appealingly melodic settings. A prime example is Richardson's "The Tao of Heavy D," which was a highlight of one of the trumpeter's recitals at Virginia Commonwealth University. It's a great song anywhere, but in Richmond you could hear it for free. A musician, however honored, is without profits in his hometown. — Peter McElhinney

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