Richard Underhill’s warm alto sound, great writing and arranging skills and in-from-the-outside soloing make him one of Canada’s most distinctive jazz performers. His new project is ‘Free Spirit‘, a critically acclaimed Live DVD/Studio CD set that features Lincoln Center Jazz trombonist Ron Westray and some of Toronto’s finest jazz players.
Richard was awarded the Roy Thomson Hall Award of Recognition in 2008 for his contribution to Toronto musical and artistic community. He won a 2003 Juno Award for his jazz debut ‘Tales from the Blue Lounge‘ and was nominated for the Prix du Jazz at the 2003 Montreal Jazz Festival. His debut video ‘The Old Guys’ climbed to No.1 on the Bravo! video chart and won a 2004 SOCAN Number 1 award. His latest album ‘Kensington Suite‘ has garnered significant critical acclaim and was nominated for a 2008 Juno Award and his 2nd album ‘Moment in Time‘ was also nominated for a Juno Award in 2007. He also took home 2nd place in the International Songwriting Competition in 2008.
Richard has performed and recorded with Han Bennink, Julius Hemphil, Dr. John, Paul Cram, Kevin Breit, Jane Bunnett, Aaron Neville and Dumpsta Funk, Kathleen Edwards, Taj Mahal, Maria Muldar, Rob McConnell, Molly Johnson, Blue Rodeo, Colin James, Andy Stochansky, Colin Linden, Hawksley Workman, Stephen Frearing, the Sadies, Tom Cochrane, Wide Mouth Mason, Luke Doucet, Holly Cole, Julie Michaels, Alex Lifeson, Mendelson Joe, Amos Garrett, Bobby Wiseman, Soul Rebels, the Mighty PoPo, the Hemispheres Orchestra, Daniel Janke, Tom Walsh, Mellissa McClelland, NOMA and Toronto jazz stalwarts like Reg Schwager, Jake Langley, Steve Koven, Ron Davis, Wayne Cass, Tyler Yarema, Tory Cassis, and George Koller. In demand as a session player and sideman, he has written horn and string arrangements for Kathleen Edwards, Molly Johnson, Andy Stochansky, Hawksley Workman, Blue Rodeo, Bobby Wiseman, Big Rude Jake and Lorraine Segato. He leads several diverse groups including his jazz quintet, the Funk Explosion, The Kensington Horns Community Band, and the improvising electronic groove ensemble Astrogroove. He has been musical director for the Kensington Festival of Lights since 2003 and currently sits on the Music Committee at the Toronto Arts Council and on the board of directors of Clay and Paper Theatre.
The founding member of Toronto’s outrageous Sun Ra influenced Shuffle Demons, Underhill took this groundbreaking Bop Rap ensemble from the streets of Toronto across Canada and to Europe. This audacious group played jazz, folk, world and rock festivals from Halifax to Vancouver and from Italy to Estonia from 1986 – 1997, touring across Canada 15 times and through Europe 15 times and were well received at several Jazz festivals including the North Sea Jazz, Molde Jazz, London’s Outside In Jazz festival, the Edinburgh Jazz festival, the Sfinks festival, and Jazz a Vienne. The Shuffle Demons feature a fusion of hard bop and rap combined with exotic costumes and a no-holds-barred performance style. They recently celebrated their 25th Anniversary with a cross Canada tour and in 2006 performed at festivals in India, China, and Europe.