424

Tom Harrell: Roman Nights

John Kelman By

Sign in to view read count
Tom Harrell: Roman Nights 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 members of Harrell's quintet continues to refine and grow even more empathic with each passing year. The short but completely to the point solos on the aptly titled opener, "Storm Approaching," not only demonstrate the exhilarating interplay between accompanists and soloists, but amongst the accompanists themselves, as drummer Johnathan Blake, in particular, accomplishes the remarkably multi-tasked challenge of responding simultaneously to both pianist Danny Grissett and Wayne Escoffery, during the saxophonist's fiery solo.



But he's not the only one who's clearly listening. Again on the disc opener, as solos are passed—first from Harrell to Escoffery, and then on to Grissett—it's as if the transitions were scored; except, of course, they're not. A final barnstorming solo from Blake, over a driving ostinato, amply explains why the increasingly busy drummer, in addition to his tenure with Harrell, has been finding employment with artists ranging from vibraphonist Joe Locke to septuagenarian saxophonist Oliver Lake. Bassist Ugonna Okegwo, another busy player with modern mainstreamers like Jacky Terrasson, Ari Ambrose and D.D. Jackson, anchors the entire disc with firm but pliant support. Soloing rarely, when he does it's a treat; his extended workout on "Study in Sound," one of Harrell's more complicated charts, is a combination of lithe lyricism and compositional intent.



As impressive as the members of Harrell's quintet are—individually and collectively—it's never about acumen being an end. Instead, it's a clear and focused means for everyone, where rhythmic placement and weaving through Harrell's sometimes rapid, other times more languid changes is all about finding new ways to shape melody. Whether it's on the brief but incendiary modal workout of "Agua," the Latin- esque "Obsession" or bass riff-driven "Let the Children Play," Escoffery—his Wayne Shorter roots clear but equally subsumed as but one parameter of his own voice—and Harrell make a potent frontline that's equally capable of gentle, almost folkloric tranquility on the deceptively simple sounding "Harvest Song," where there's clearly a lot more sophistication going on under the hood.



With even great emphasis on Grissett's Fender Rhodes than ever before, there's an ethereal, dreamlike quality that imbues much of Roman Nights, even at brighter tempos like "Bird in Flight" Throughout, Harrell has never sounded better, his dulcet plangency a reminder that it's not necessary to be oblique in order to be progressive. As with his previous HighNote sets, Roman Nights is another fine entry from one of the contemporary mainstream's most memorable players and telepathically transcendent quintets.


Track Listing: Storm Approaching; Let the Children Play; Roman Nights; Study in Sound; Agua; Obsession; Harvest Song; Bird in Flight; Year of the Ox.

Personnel: Tom Harrell: trumpet, flugelhorn; Wayne Escoffery: tenor saxophone; Danny Grissett: piano, Fender Rhodes; Ugonna Okegwo: bass; Johnathan Blake: drums.

Year Released: 2010 | Record Label: HighNote Records | Style: Straight-ahead/Mainstream


Related Video

Shop

More Articles

Read Over the Rainbow CD/LP/Track Review Over the Rainbow
by Paul Rauch
Published: February 24, 2017
Read Before The Silence CD/LP/Track Review Before The Silence
by John Sharpe
Published: February 24, 2017
Read Masters Legacy Series, Volume 1 CD/LP/Track Review Masters Legacy Series, Volume 1
by Edward Blanco
Published: February 24, 2017
Read Backlog CD/LP/Track Review Backlog
by Mark F. Turner
Published: February 24, 2017
Read Process And Reality CD/LP/Track Review Process And Reality
by Mark Corroto
Published: February 24, 2017
Read The Picasso Zone CD/LP/Track Review The Picasso Zone
by Franz A. Matzner
Published: February 23, 2017
Read "Moons" CD/LP/Track Review Moons
by Dave Wayne
Published: July 27, 2016
Read "Guilty Saints" CD/LP/Track Review Guilty Saints
by Chris Mosey
Published: June 18, 2016
Read "San José Suite" CD/LP/Track Review San José Suite
by Nigel Campbell
Published: December 2, 2016
Read "Echoes From Rudolph's" CD/LP/Track Review Echoes From Rudolph's
by John Sharpe
Published: March 30, 2016
Read "Argonautica" CD/LP/Track Review Argonautica
by Troy Collins
Published: November 14, 2016
Read "No Favorites!" CD/LP/Track Review No Favorites!
by Troy Collins
Published: November 27, 2016

Post a comment

comments powered by Disqus

Sponsor: ECM Records | BUY NOW  

Support our sponsor

Support All About Jazz's Future

We need your help and we have a deal. Contribute $20 and we'll hide the six Google ads that appear on every page for a full year!

Buy it!