Sail Away is one of trumpeter/composer Tom Harrell’s best efforts and features a wide range of his original material. The album starts off with “Eons,” a fast tempo bop tune that features tenor sax and trumpet solos. Harrell is at his most Chet Baker-like in “Glass Mystery,” a slow ballad with inspired solos from Baker and tenor saxophonist Joe Lovano.
The album’s title track “Sail Away” is a lovely bossa nova with a haunting melody and interesting modulations. It has quickly become a favorite of jazz musicians and has been recorded by a number of artists. Harrell’s performance is haunting and so understated that it ironically intensifies the emotions being expressed. This song alone is worth the price of the album.
Modal melodies predominate in “Dream in June,” a tune featuring wild soprano saxophone and guitar solos. A similar mood is found in the ostinato-driven “Hope Street.”
For sheer joyful straight ahead swinging no one can beat Tom Harrell when he is at the top of his form. Happily this is the case in the medium tempo “Buffalo Wings” and the scorching “It Always Is.” Rounding out the album is “Dancing Trees,” a light, slow ballad with flute taking the melodic lead.
Although much is made of Harrell’s heroic struggle with schizophrenia and the odd presence he cuts on stage during concerts and club dates, the important thing to keep in mind is that he remains one of the most phenomenal jazz musicians of the post-bop era. Forget the disability. Sail Away celebrates Tom Harrell the musician.
Track Listing: Eons; Glass Mystery; Dream in June; Sail Away; Buffalo Wings; It Always Is; Dancing Trees; Hope Street
Personnel: Tom Harrell, trumpet, flugelhorn; Adam Nussbaum drums; Cheryl Pyle, flute; Dave Liebman, soprano saxophone; John Abercrombie, guitar; Ray Drummond, bass; Joe Lovano, tenor saxophone; James Williams, piano;