Learn How

We need your help in 2018

Support All About Jazz All About Jazz is looking for 1,000 backers to help fund our 2018 projects that directly support jazz. You can make this happen by purchasing ad space or by making a donation to our fund drive. In addition to completing every project (listed here), we'll also hide all Google ads and present exclusive content for a full year!

424

Tom Harrell: Roman Nights

John Kelman By

Sign in to view read count
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.

Title: Roman Nights | Year Released: 2010 | Record Label: HighNote Records


Tags

Related Video

comments powered by Disqus

More Articles

Read Makes the Heart to Sing: Jazz Hymns CD/LP/Track Review Makes the Heart to Sing: Jazz Hymns
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: December 16, 2017
Read Song of No Regrets CD/LP/Track Review Song of No Regrets
by Jack Bowers
Published: December 16, 2017
Read Sounding Tears CD/LP/Track Review Sounding Tears
by John Sharpe
Published: December 16, 2017
Read Lighthouse CD/LP/Track Review Lighthouse
by Glenn Astarita
Published: December 16, 2017
Read Kill The Boy CD/LP/Track Review Kill The Boy
by Chris Mosey
Published: December 16, 2017
Read Rain or Shine CD/LP/Track Review Rain or Shine
by Jack Bowers
Published: December 15, 2017
Read "Official Bootleg: Live in Chicago, June 28th, 2017" CD/LP/Track Review Official Bootleg: Live in Chicago, June 28th, 2017
by John Kelman
Published: October 12, 2017
Read "Luma" CD/LP/Track Review Luma
by Geannine Reid
Published: March 28, 2017
Read "A Night Walking Through Mirrors" CD/LP/Track Review A Night Walking Through Mirrors
by Glenn Astarita
Published: April 20, 2017
Read "A Sequence of Waves (Twelve Stories and a Dream)" CD/LP/Track Review A Sequence of Waves (Twelve Stories and a Dream)
by Paul Naser
Published: December 8, 2017
Read "Eleven Cages" CD/LP/Track Review Eleven Cages
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: June 27, 2017
Read "Live At Vilnius Jazz Festival" CD/LP/Track Review Live At Vilnius Jazz Festival
by John Sharpe
Published: January 22, 2017

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!