A Jazz Prometheus, unbound...
Tom Harrell is the John Forbes Nash, Jr. of jazz. Against considerable odds, Harrell has successfully struggled with schizophrenia and become one of the most respected trumpeters and composers of the past 30 years. On his first live recording, Harrell squirts out a treasure trove of new material supplemented with the single (and most appropriate) "Everything Happens To Me." The results are as uniformly fine as we listeners have come to expect from this master.
Here, Harrell leads a quintet in an assembly of characteristically Harrell-abstracts, mood pieces reflecting all matter of wakefulness. The nervous opener, "Asia Minor," submits an angular head that segues into a lyrically swinging flugelhorn solo by Harrell. His solo is supplemented with the tenor of Jimmy Green, who turns in a good solo of his own. The somnolent "Manhattan, 3 AM" provides a ministry for bassist Ugonna Okegwo, while Xavier Davis provides tasty comping on all cuts and exquisite solos on his duet with Harrell on the contemplative "Everything Happens to Me." "Where the Rain Begins" is a plaintive ballad composed by Harrell and his wife/manager, Angela. The piece showcases Harrell's superb grasp on the ballad playing with an open trumpet bell.
"Blues in Una Sea" is a bit of a Hard Bop throw back, sporting elements of the blues and those great Wayne Shorter melodies, circa 1962. "Design" was inspired by Ornette Coleman and results in one of the most spirited performances of the evening, complete with smart complexity and erudite observation. The closer, "Party Song" is a polished Lee Morgan Boogaloo, quietly funky, allowing all of the participants to have their say.
Live at the Village Vanguard is brimming with all of the smartness and attentive humor of the other Harrell recordings. That this Harrell recording is live simply makes it all that much better.
Personnel: Tom Harrell:trumpet, flugelhorn; Xavier Davis: piano; Jimmy Greene: tenor saxophone; Ugonna Okegwo: bass; Quincy Davis: drums.