Richard Underhill biography

Saxophonist, composer, arranger, film music

Contact: @RichUnderhill

Find all Richard's music on Bandcamp or Spotify.

Juno award winning international touring artist Richard Underhill is one of Canada’s most distinctive jazz performers. His wonderfully melodic alto sax playing, accomplished composing and arranging skills and in-from-the-outside soloing have garnered him significant national acclaim. Richard won a 2003 Juno Award for his jazz debut Tales from the Blue Lounge, was nominated for the Prix du Jazz at the 2003 Montreal Jazz Festival and won the prestigious Roy Thomson Hall Award of Recognition presented by the Toronto Arts Council Foundation in 2008. He has toured the world extensively with Canada's magnificently outrageous Shuffle Demons, playing festivals from Bangkok to Buenos Aires, Montreal to Mumbai, Tokyo to Torino and 100s of places in between.  His latest album Live at Lula features Lincoln Center Jazz and Wynton Marsalis alum trombonist Ron Westray and Snarky Puppy drummer Larnell Lewis. His 3rd album Kensington Suite 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. A truly original jazz composer and arranger, Richard’s exciting original music captivates audiences with singable melodies, outstanding musicianship and engaging performances. 

Richard was honoured to perform at Roy Thomson Hall for the state funeral of his old friend, the honourable Jack Layton in 2011 and was inspired by Jack’s commitment to public service to run for mayor of Toronto in 2014.

Richard has performed and recorded with Dr. John, Jane Bunnett, Rob McConnell, Barenaked Ladies, the Dumpstaphunk, Blue Rodeo, Kathleen Edwards, Taj Mahal, Maria Muldar, Molly Johnson, Colin James, Han Bennink, Kevin Breit, Julius Hemphil, Andy Stochansky, Colin Linden, Hawksley Workman, Stephen Frearing, The Sadies, Tom Cochrane, Wide Mouth Mason, Luke Doucet, Holly Cole, Julie Michaels, Paul Cram, Terry Clarke, Alex Lifeson, Mendelson Joe, Amos Garrett, Bobby Wiseman, Soul Rebels, the Mighty PoPo, the Hemispheres Orchestra, Daniel Janke, Tom Walsh, Don Thompson, Jake Langley, Hilario Duran, Mellissa McClelland, NOMA Dave Young, 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 the Richard Underhill quintet, the Shuffle Demons, the Rider Raiders brass band, the Kensington Horns Community Band,  and the improvising electronic groove ensemble Astrogroove

The founding member of Toronto's outrageous Sun Ra influenced Shuffle Demons, Underhill took this ground breaking 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. The Shuffle Demons featured a fusion of hard bop and rap combined with exotic costumes and a no-holds-barred performance style. Over the course of 15 European tours they were a hit 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. They recently celebrated their 25th Anniversary with a cross Canada tour and by breaking the Guinness Book World Record for most sax players performing a song. (900). The Shuffle Demons continue to tour and between 2006 and present have performed at festivals in Japan, Europe, China, S. Korea, Thailand, India, Australia, New Zealand, Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay, Uruguay, Chile, Colombia, Cuba, Nicaragua, Panama, El Salvador, Mexico, Guatemala, and the U.S. with great success. They released their 9th album “Crazy Time’ in 2020 and their 10th album ‘All In’ in 2021.


Toronto Arts Council Foundation - 2008 - Roy Thomson Hall Award of Recognition


2008 - Nominee - Kensington Suite - Instrumental Recording of the Year
2007 - Nominee - Moment in Time - Contemporary Jazz Recording of the Year 2003 - Award Winner - Richard Underhill - Tales from the Blue Lounge Contemporary Jazz Recording of the Year
1988 - Nominee - Paul Cram - Beyond Benghazi - Best Jazz Recording
1987 - Nominee - Shuffle Demons - Streetniks - Best Jazz Recording 


2008 – 2nd place, Jazz Composition of the Year

PRIX DU JAZZ - Festival International de Jazz de Montréal
2008 – Finalist – Daniel Barnes Quintet
2003 – Finalist – Richard Underhill Sextet
1989 – Finalist - Walsh/Underhill Duo 

Selected Recordings: 

Live at Lula • Richard Underhill: 2022 Stubby - composer, arranger, alto sax

 All In • Shuffle Demons: 2021 Stubby - composer, arranger, alto sax                                     

Crazy Time • Shuffle Demons: 2020 Stubby - composer, arranger, alto sax Clusterfunk • Shuffle Demons: 2013 Linus - composer, arranger, alto sax 

Free Spirit • Richard Underhill: 2010 Stubby - composer, arranger, alto sax 

Time After Time • Geordie Macdonald: 2009 Sonavista - alto sax, composer 

Kensington Suite • Richard Underhill: 2007 Stubby - composer, arr., alto sax 

Moment in Time • Richard Underhill: 2005 Stubby - composer, arr., alto sax 

Duets • Tom Walsh: 2005 - composer, arranger, alto sax 

Luke Doucet • Luke Doucet: 2005 Six Shooter Records - alto sax, baritone sax 

Back to Me • Kathleen Edwards: 2005 Zoe Records - alto sax, horn arr.
Blue Mythos • Geordie Macdonald 2004 Sonavista - alto sax
Mungle Music • Ron Davis Trio: Davinor 2004 - alto sax, composer 

Seriously Happy • Royal Jelly Orchestra: 2004 Linus - alto sax, arranger
Release • Z’Howndz: 2004 Scratch Records - alto sax
Oh Susanna • Oh Susanna: 2003 Nettwerk Records – alto sax, horn arr.
That’s how I Walk • Stephen Fearing: 2002 True North Records - alto sax
Tales from the Blue Lounge • Richard Underhill: 2003 Stubby - saxes, composer, arranger, producer. Juno Award Winner: Contemporary Jazz Recording of the Year 

Palace of Gold • Blue Rodeo: 2002 WEA - alto & bari sax, horn arrangements 

Greatest Hits • Blue Rodeo: 2001 WEA - alto sax, horn arrangements
Work Songs • Various Artists 2001 DROG Records - alto sax, programming 

Rhythm of Love • David Wilcox: 2000 Stony Plain - alto saxophone 

AstroGroove • AstroGroove: 2000 - Spinning Round the World - co-producer, saxes, flute, samples, drum programming, composer 

Radio Fuse Box • Andy Stochansky: 2000 The Orchard – saxes, horn arr. 

The New Piano • Wayne Cass: 1999 - Alto Saxophone
Molly Johnson • Molly Johnson: 1999 Alert Music - alto sax 

ClintEastWoodyAllenAlda • Royal Jelly Orchestra:1999 Leisure Lab saxophones, composer, arranger
Shaken and Stirred • Jelly Orchestra:1997 Leisure Lab/BMG saxophones, arranger
How do you feel about that? • Jennifer Ryan: 1996 Go Play Records - producer 

Get Right • Shuffle Demons: 1996 Stubby co-producer, saxes, composer 

Extra Crispy • Shuffle Demons: 1993 Stubby - co-producer, saxes, composer 

Alive in Europe • Shuffle Demons: 1992 Stubby - producer, saxes, composer 

What do you Want • Shuffle Demons: 1990 Stony Plain co-producer, saxes, composer
Bobby Wiseman • Bobby Wiseman: 1989 Risque Disque/WEA - alto sax
Born to Cuddle • Mendolson Joe: 1988 Anthem Records -saxes, horn arr.
Bop Rap • Shuffle Demons: 1988 Stony Plain Records. - producer, saxophones,vocals
Beyond Benghazi • Paul Cram with Julius Hemphill: 1987 Apparition - bari sax 

Streetniks • Shuffle Demons: 1986 Stony Plain/Stubby Records - co-producer, saxophones, vocals, composer nominated for a Juno award 1987 – best jazz album
Live In Toronto • The Bill Smith Ensemble: 1986 Onari – alto sax, composer Live at the 

Cabana Room • The Shuffle Demons: 1985 Stubby – alto & bari sax 


LESTER B. PEARSON COLLEGE OF THE PACIFIC – Victoria: 1978-1980 International Baccalaureate with honours

YORK UNIVERSITY - 1982-1985 Bachelor of Fine Arts program majoring in music
Studies in jazz performance, jazz composition and arranging, South Indian classical music, 20th-century music, music theory and music history with Professors David Mott, John Gittins, Bob Witmer, Alan Henderson, Trichy Sancharan, Casey Sokol, David Lidov. 

BANFF SCHOOL OF FINE ARTS SUMMER JAZZ PROGRAM 1983 Studies in jazz with Dave Holland, Dave Liebman, Steve Coleman and Anthony Braxton. 

Contact: @RichUnderhill