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CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Tom Harrell: The Time of the Sun

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With all the media attention being given--and deservingly so--to hot young firebrands like trumpeter Christian Scott, it's easy to overlook the older cats who've been quietly building a life's work where the only thing predictable is unfailing creativity. Tom Harrell may have turned 65 earlier this year, but he's still playing with the vigor of a man half his age, while benefiting from the wisdom that grows as the years pass, with little left to prove but plenty more to say. For The Time of the Sun--the trumpeter's fourth HighNote record in five years, with Roman Nights released just twelve ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Tom Harrell: Tom Harrell: Roman Nights

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Roman Nights, trumpeter Tom Harrell's third release with his hardworking quintet of saxophonist Wayne Escoffery, pianist Danny Grissett, bassist Ugonna Okegwo and drummer Johnathan Blake, is an all-original set that maintains the highest standards of composition, small-group arranging and improvisation. Harrell is a paragon of restraint, each note carefully chosen, each phrase finely balanced, seducing with the sheer magnetism of his melodies, while Escoffery lets loose torrents of ideas that topple over each other with brassy bluster.

On “Let the Children Play," the tenor's serpentine lines are chock-a-block with inventive turns and exhaustively explored motifs as the trumpet's mellow, pure ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Tom Harrell: Roman Nights

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Since signing with the HighNote label in 2006, Tom Harrell has released the most significant CDs in his three decades-plus of recording. It's no coincidence that, for this same period, he has been leading a true dream band of younger players. His previous output for RCA was of the highest quality, particularly Paradise (2001), a unique date with strings, and the exemplary Live At The Village Vanguard (2002). Lately, Harrell sounds more intensely engaged than ever, and thoroughly enjoying the constant growth and challenges of his music.

Roman Nights reveals all sorts of tasty quirks and dynamics--detailed touches ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Tom Harrell: Roman Nights

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Since coming back from hiatus following the superb Wise Children (Bluebird, 2003), Tom Harrell's been on a roll. On a new label (HighNote) and with a new working quartet, the trumpeter has gone from success to success, from the undeniably fine Light On (2007), to the even better Prana Dance (2009). Whether Roman Dances is even better still is a tough call; Harrell's writing and quintet are so uniformly excellent that comparisons--empirical or otherwise--are rendered moot.

There's plenty that resonates on Roman Nights, where the one thing that is certain is that the chemistry amongst the ...

LIVE REVIEWS

Tom Harrell Quintet at Dazzle Nightclub in Denver

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Tom Harrell Quintet Dazzle Nightclub Denver, CO February 11, 2010 (First Set)

My wife arrived early for the show, before me. Most of the nearly sold out crowd had yet to arrive. The maître'd offered her a table in the front. She declined stating, “No thanks, since this is a trumpet player, I'd like to sit further back." She needn't have worried. There was little that was shrill or piercing about Tom Harrell's playing; and that wasn't just because he only played his flugelhorn Thursday night, forsaking his trumpet for the entire set. ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Tom Harrell: Prana Dance

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Following up his 2007 effort Light On (HighNote), trumpeter Tom Harrell continues to document his original compositional voice and uncommonly tight working band with Prana Dance. Again there's the youthful, hungry lineup of tenor saxophonist Wayne Escoffery, pianist Danny Grissett and drummer Johnathan Blake, with long-serving Harrell stalwart Ugonna Okegwo digging in on bass. The material is all original, all new, teeming with harmonic secrets and an uncanny marriage of the simple and complex, not to mention ample possibilities for elaboration in the live setting--as the band proved during a galvanizing Thursday night set at New York's Village Vanguard in ...

INTERVIEWS

Tom Harrell: Boundless Beauty

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Tom Harrell is an exceptional musician, known for his exquisite playing on trumpet and flugelhorn as well as for the many lyrical melodies, expressive harmonies and undeniably beautiful music he has composed for some 40 years and, happily, counting. Many famous colleagues, orchestras and big bands have recorded his original compositions and arrangements and among jazz aficionados, Harrell's history is as well known as his gifts. He has distinguished himself as a performer with many renowned groups and legendary artists as well as leading his own groups, including his current quintet which recently released a new CD, Prana Dance (HighNote). ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Tom Harrell: Prana Dance

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Trumpeter Tom Harrell, always wandering, forever searching for some fresh musical pathway, embarks on another special voyage with Prana Dance, a series of expressive tone poems whose outward simplicity belies their inner depth and power.

As he has in the past, Harrell layers his eight plain-spoken compositions with spiritual undertones, none of which detracts from his improvisational purpose or that of his comrades in his quintet. Harrell has always been an uncompromising melodicist, which is readily apparent on each of his invigorating themes, and his solos are similarly transparent, as are those of pianist Danny Grissett and saxophonist Wayne Escoffery. ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Tom Harrell: Prana Dance

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Despite fighting health issues that would keep most people down and out, Tom Harrell has managed to create a remarkably consistent discography as a leader, in addition to a sizable collection of sessions since first emerging in the early '70s. Still, the trumpeter seems especially invigorated since signing with HighNote for Light On (2007). A true leader of the modern mainstream who works squarely in the tradition while gently pushing the envelope, Harrell's outstanding writing, a tone that could melt butter, and an innate lyricism that, in its own less melancholy fashion, matches that of Kenny Wheeler, makes Prana Dance ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Tom Harrell: Light On

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Tom Harrell is like that rare good friend who is exempt from the usual “three-day rule for house guests--after which even the best of buds can loose their bloom. If he has nothing to say, he doesn't fill your ears with empty phrases. And if he knows he can't be fully present on a visit with you, he won't be there at all. Which is exactly the way it's been with the trumpeter, who hasn't made a recording as a leader for a US label in four years. But now he's back and, like that old friend, ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Tom Harrell: Light On

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As the business of music makes the wobbly transition from unified collections of songs to individual tracks as the primary currency of recorded music, jazz continues to embrace the increasingly antiquated format of the album to great effect. Such is the case with trumpeter Tom Harrell's Light On, a bonafide collection of compositions and performances that are conspicuously unified, and an open challenge to the notion of “album as anachronism" in the digital age. This collection of songs was meant to be swallowed whole.All the ingredients for a fine “album" are there--intricate but accessible melodies, potent and personal ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Tom Harrell: Sail Away

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Recorded over two days in March of 1989, Sail Away is surely one of the youngest albums ever to be re-released as an OJC, and presumably the first from the CD era. Two songs from the sessions not on the original CD are included here, bringing the total time to a very generous 79 minutes. Although Tom Harrell composed every tune, the two days' sessions were not alike, and thus this disc has a “two LPs on one CD" quality.

The liner notes are ambiguous, but apparently the first day's session included Joe Lovanao on tenor sax, James Williams on ...

INTERVIEWS

A Fireside Chat with Tom Harrell

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Tom Harrell is a blessing. Warmth and kindness oozes from his horn playing and from his compositions. His latest for RCA Victor, Time's Mirror, is a big band recording, quite a departure for the trumpeter. I caught up with Harrell in the midst of a nationwide tour to promote his new album. It is an intimate portrait of a “genius" as Horace Silver put it, unedited and in his own words.

FRED JUNG: Let's start from the beginning.

TOM HARRELL: My pleasure. My parents had great records and I would listen. I wanted to play ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Tom Harrell: Wise Children

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Adding four exceptional vocalists to his program, trumpeter Tom Harrell takes the listener on a journey through time and space. Contemporary world music, 30-year-old funk, swinging stage band arrangements, and the burning presence of his horn, color Harrell’s program with authority. The ten pieces are his compositions. The quintet, which includes Jimmy Greene, Xavier Davis, Ugonna Okegwo and Quincy Davis, provides a firm foundation upon which the trumpeter and special guests stand confidently.

While Harrell and his guests are in top form, the program seems designed to discourage heightened emotion. Between the composer’s mellow ballads with strings ...



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