Emil Richards was a legendary Jazz percussionist and a part-time Maui resident from 1982 to ’95. He played often at Blackies Bar in Lahaina and taught many workshops and youth clinics during his time here. Richards passed in December, and this Saturday his Maui ‘ohana of students, fans, and friends will be putting on a tribute to recognize his music and accomplishments. Bryant Neal and Mark Ellman have put together a fantastic event called Jazz Maui Presents a Musical Tribute to Emil Richards. The evening will be hosted by hosted by Kathy Collins, and features a memorial tribute led by Sara Gadarian, former proprietor of Blackie’s Bar.

“Emil was a very active player with energy and enthusiasm,” says Neal. “Lionel Hampton was his mentor and he played with the same energy. Hearing him with great musicians was a treat as you hardly ever hear vibes [vibraphone] and never by anyone of his caliber. When students were in the audience he’d always add the ‘Flinstones’ theme song.”

Richards’ discography is a mile long. Richards (Sep. 2, 1932 – Dec. 14, 2019) was an American vibraphonist and percussionist who was recorded on more than 1,350 film scores, and performed and recorded with more than 650 artists. Do you ever wonder about those iconic fingersnaps on the “The Addams Family?” Yep, that was him. His work can be heard on other famous television show themes like the bongos on Mission: Impossible, the vibes on “The Flintstones,” and the xylophone on “The Simpsons” opening tune. He worked with a wide variety of musical stars such as Judy Garland, Nat King Cole, Stan Kenton, Ella Fritzgerald, The Beach Boys, George Harrison, Frank Zappa, Glen Campbell, Luciano Pavarotti, and many more.

“First set will be the students who benefited from the workshops that Emil gave at the upcountry high school,” says Ellman. “Some of them are back from mainland schools for the holidays. One is Jake Thomas on trumpet, who is outstanding and already professional. I am putting together a slideshow and some video clips of Emil playing on Maui, which I will present during the break. Then we will have the band comprised of musicians who played with Emil at Blackie’s Bar: Paul Marchetti, Danny M, Brian Cuomo, John Zangrando, Sal Godinez on keyboard and vocals, plus Estaire Godinez on vocals and Latin percussion.”

In fact, the event showcases members of the original “Jazz at Blackie’s” band who played with Richards including Paul Marchetti (drums), Sal Godinez (keyboards and vocals), John Zangrando (saxophone), Danny M (bass), Estaire Godinez (vocals and Latin percussion), Gene Argel (keyboards), and Marcus Johnson (bass). Also performing at the tribute are members of the Jazz Maui Players: percussionist Peter Dela Croce, Jazz guitarist Prem Brosio, bassist Danny M, trumpeter Jake Thomas, saxophonist Joie Yasha, clarinetist Michael Guzalak, and vocalists Tanama Calibri and Shea Derrick.

“Emil was a regular at the original ‘Jazz at Blackie’s,’” says Neal. “It was the longest-running jazz event ever on Maui. They had a legendary house band that allowed guest musicians the ability to sit in. He performed workshops and clinics for Jazz Maui education camps. Because Blackie’s always had a great rhythm section, players like George Benson and Emil would sit in with them. He loved Maui and would make the players around him sound better.”

Tickets are $15 for this limited seating event and may be purchased online at Jazzmaui.org. Proceeds benefit Jazz Maui’s music education programs in which Richards participated, teaching workshops and youth clinics.

For tickets visit Jazzmaui.org. For more information, call Bryant Neal at 808-283-3576.

Jazz Maui Presents a Musical Tribute to Emil Richards

The Altitude Deck at Kihei Charter School

Saturday, Jan. 11


Tickets: $15, available online

650 Lipoa Pkwy., Kihei



I write lifestyle and culinary columns for MauiTime. I love being a Maui girl and adore my big family. Dedicated food taster, blogger, internet fanatic, and Maui and Hawaii specialist.

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