When trumpeter Stephanie Richards isn't serving as a music professor at UCSD, she records with artists like David Byrne, John Zorn, Anthony Braxton, Henry Threadgill, St. Vincent, Jason Moran, Yoko Ono, and Kanye West. She has also performed and recorded in a trio with Vinny Golia and Bert Turetzky, and has collaborated with performance artists Mike Kelly and Laurie Anderson. Her compositions have been featured on stages at Carnegie Hall, the Blue-Note NYC, and Lincoln Center, and she has conducted ensembles with Butch Morris’ Conduction language.
Her electro-experimental debut solo album Fullmoon was released in 2018. It was recorded unplugged, acoustically manipulating her horn against resonating surfaces. While appearing to sound electronically processed, she was then live-sampled by electronic pioneer Dino J.A. Deane. The album was voted #2 for Best Records of 2018 by Jazz Right Now and hailed as “spellbinding" on NPR.
An album called Take the Neon Lights pays homage to New York City, especially in the video for "Brooklyn Machine," named from Allen Ginsberg's poem "My Sad Self" and directed and animated by Andrea Yasco. Other titles are named from poems that similarly evoke the city by literary icons Maya Angelou, and Jack Kerouac, with the title track set to Langston Hughes’ "JukeBox Love Song." Guest players include pianist James Carney, bassist Sam Minaie, and drummer Andrew Munsey.
She began recording her next album in 2019, when Richards was six-and-a-half months pregnant. “I was experiencing my own metamorphosis, and thinking about the idea of breathing one breath for two bodies — moving through the world with two distinct pulses happening at the same time. It brought this a whole other color to my sound precisely because I had a different physical ability. Our bodies are full of potential, and that's something that I just had never fully investigated." In addition, "Having a child, it makes it more tangible to try to grasp what a future might feel like." Due to the pandemic shutdown, the album was delayed around two years.
The resulting album Zephyr, released in October 2021, is a collaboration with pianist Joshua White that features three suites: “Sacred Sea,” “Sequoia,” and “Northern Lights.” It was begun while she was pregnant, though it took two years to finish due to the pandemic. “Your humanity is visibly evident when you're pregnant,” she says. “I felt that I could connect even more closely with my bandmates, and with audiences.” The album is being released with an accompanying film, shot by Vipal Monga in the slow cinema genre that furthers the album’s focus on water and breath. “It's not being dictated to you from a visual perspective,” says Richards of the film, which was released online as well as screened during the album support tour.
(Photo: Walter Wlodarcyzk)