Tom Harrell - Infinity

Label: HighNote Records, 2019

Personnel - Tom Harrell: trumpet; Mark Turner: tenor sax; Charles Altura: guitar; Ben Street: bass; Johnathan Blake: drums.

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Ace trumpeter Tom Harrell’s new recording, Infinity, brims with uncomplicated structures, harmonic sophistication, nervy improvisations, and a mix of kaleidoscopic hard-bop and straight ahead post-bop influences. The album comprises ten Harrell compositions subjected to wonderful musical treatments by a hot quintet that includes Mark Turner on tenor sax, Charles Altura on guitar, Ben Street on bass, and Johnathan Blake on drums.

All these musicians have recorded with the trumpet player before and, on this particular album, their skills stand out in clean-cut narratives such as “The Fast”, which is pinned down by a hooky rocking vamp in seven, and “Dublin”, charmingly introduced by acoustic guitar before a 4/4 modal jazz is installed. Both pieces feature Harrell and Turner as soloists, with Altura and Blake contributing incisive improvisational work on the former composition. Turner is simply genial, shaping conversational phrases with momentary out-of-focus incursions, while Harrell puts a lot of sensitivity in melodic articulations surrounded by the finest light.

If the easy-listening “Folk Song” exhibits a gentle backbeat that produces cool and sophistication vibes, the time-shifting “Hope” offers percussive rattles and shakes, parallel melodies, rarefied reverb-drenched guitar, and an unforeseen bolero-ish routine that, in a flash, morphs into a vibrantly swinging locomotion. This is a clinical demonstration of Harrell’s compositional facility and inventiveness.

Both “Coronation” and “Ground” exude happy thoughts. However, whereas the former feels blatantly popish, the latter has the restless up-and-down trajectories of the bass instilling the spirit of disco-funk.

Immediately upon finishing “Duet”, a short trumpet-saxophone extravagance, Harrell brings the album to a close with the sweeping, busy, and vibrant post-bop of “Taurus”, whose mutable dynamics pack a punch.

The trumpeter is an intelligent, exceptionally melodic sculptor who channels discipline and freedom to the right places for the most breathtaking effect. He is outstanding here, and so are his bandmates.

Grade  A

Grade A

Favorite Tracks:
01 - The Fast ► 02 - Dublin ► 10 - Taurus


Tom Harrell - Moving Picture

Label/Year: HighNote Records, 2017

Lineup – Tom Harrell: trumpet, flugelhorn; Danny Grissett: piano; Ugonna Okegwo: bass; Adam Cruz: drums.

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American trumpet/flugelhorn player and composer, Tom Harrell, keeps up a very active career with high levels of quality on each work released. 
The successor of the commendable Something Gold, Something Blue (HighNote Records, 2016) is Moving Picture, which features a quartet comprising regular bandmates Danny Grissett on piano, Ugonna Okegwo on bass, and Adam Cruz on drums.

Despite the conspicuous inclination to embrace Latin/Brazilian rhythms throughout this record, the quartet opens with blazing post-bop inspiration. The title track, following an exciting 6/8 meter, has this quasi-imperial grandeur that imports Eastern folk idioms into the head’s melody, while bass/piano pedals, affixed to a nearly marching drum routine, sustain the whole thing together. This happens before a lustrous danceable groove walks in and brings the best in Harrell, an incredibly articulated declaimer in his melody-driven constructions. Furthermore, one can dig the brilliant moves of Grissett, constantly soulful and motivically versed, and Cruz, whose unhurried statement evolves into a luscious crescendo. 

Apple House” has distinguished features when compared to the other pieces. During its first minutes, it sounds like an electronic-influenced piece delineated by an almost puerile melodic line. However, instead of any crazy beat, the song progresses with Cruz’s subtle brushed drumming gradually procuring a docile bossa nova feeling.

Montego Bay” wrings multiple rhythmic accentuations while elegantly integrates post-bop dialects and a sultry Caribbean pulse.
 
Latin America flavors also permeate “Time Passage”, whose initial impulse is given by geometric tom-tom figures and hi-hat triplets on the drum kit. Harrell unleashes transparent yet vibrant ideas throughout, having brisk harmonic movements developing underneath.

Both “Different Clouds” and “Gee A Bee” are easy-listening exercises. The former carries a breezy vibe and singable melody, while the latter opens the door to an elated jazz funk hinged to a perennial harmonic cycle.

As a jazzified Brazilian pop song, “Happy Ring” invites to chill out and would have given Michael Franks another vocal hit. Also with a Brazilian soul, “Sea” triggers lush harmonies delivered at 4/4 tempo, regardless the ternary folk dance as the starting point.

Flaunting a solo piano introduction that could fit in Jobim’s lyrical repertoire, “Vibrer” is a riveting trumpet/piano duet influenced by Olivier Messiaen and the music of New Orleans. It includes nice melodic lines over waltzing cadences and harmonic gestures typical of the rock genre. 

Encircled by affable warmness, bold color combinations, and a soaring optimism, this is another recommended title from a trumpeter that got me recurrently hooked on his musical creations.

       Grade  A-

       Grade A-

Favorite Tracks:
01 - Moving Picture ► 05 - Different Clouds ► 08 - Vibrer


Tom Harrell - Something Gold, Something Blue

Tom Harrell: trumpet, flugelhorn; Ambrose Akinmusire: trumpet; Charles Altura: guitar; Ugonna Okegwo: bass; Johnathan Blake: drums; Omer Avital: oud.

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With more than 40 records under his belt and a career that spans nearly five decades, Tom Harrell, a deft cool-tone trumpeter and extremely skilled composer, has been spreading fragrances of quality within the jazz genre.
The multiple awards are a deserved recognition for his talent and dedication to an enthralling style that, despite centered on postbop and straight-ahead jazz, often searches for other sources of inspiration.

The variety of paces, textures, and moods found in Something Gold Something Blue, his new recording on HighNote Records, mirrors exactly that permissiveness and spirit of innovation. 
In order to perform the eight originals and a rendition of the classic ballad “Body and Soul”, Harrell convened a group of rousing musicians – trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire and guitarist Charles Altura are categorical new acquisitions for the quintet, while bassist Ugonna Okegwo and drummer Johnathan Blake are recurrent choices with the important mission of assuring a sensitive, stabilized rhythm flow.

The opening number, “Circuit”, registers a short theme statement designed with horn alignments laid over the surefooted foundation built by Blake’s nervy drumming and Okegwo’s propulsive plucking. Among the soloists, Harrell stands out due to the playfulness and detachment of his gestures.

While “Travelin” accepts the term ‘song’ for itself in accordance to the exposed guitar chords and facile melodies, “Trances” is no less than an adventurous fantasy composed of rich harmonies, nuanced grooves, and seamless fluctuations in tempo. After the introductory percussive proclamation, Blake maintains composure between the alternating 6/8 and 4/4 sections with the help of Altura’s warmly-amplified voicings. Moreover, Akinmusire and Harrell’s trumpet solos coexist with color, purpose, and zero conflict.

Through the ethnic fusion of “Delta of the Nile”, a winding Middle Eastern narrative that counted on special guest Omer Avital on oud, Harrell takes us to other parts of the globe. Yet, the mood shifts again with “View”, an uplifting locomotion fabricated with complex and arresting accentuations, and with “Sound Image”, whose touches of funk and Brazilian bossa emit amiable vibes.
The swinging “The Vehicle”, moving in a more traditional way, closes the album.

Simultaneously, Harrell assures powerful individual contributions from his likes and exceptional group dynamics. 
His remarkable compositional creativity, instrument control, and musical adventurism are all here to turn this recording into a spellbinding modern classic. Mandatory!

         Grade  A+

         Grade A+

Label: HighNote Records, 2016
Favorite Tracks:
03 – Trances ► 04 – Delta of the Nile ► 08 – Sound Image