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Tom Harrell and TRIP

Patricia Myers By

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Paris Jazz Diary 2015: Trumpeter Tom Harrell and TRIP
Duc des Lombards
Nous N'Irons Pas a New York Festival
Paris, France
July 17, 2015

The amazing and intriguing trumpeter Tom Harrell performed a program of nuanced creativity that stirred and expressed emotion, rather than displaying technique. His sparse solos were accented by sophisticated harmonies that appeared appealing to the rapt members of Duc des Lombard's first-set full-house.

Harrell has never relied on clichéd phrases or employing segments of familiar jazz charts, his solos always an unconventional approach to the jazz genre. Leading TRIP, his piano-less quartet with tenor saxophonist Mark Turner, bassist Ugonna Okegwo and drummer Adam Cruz, he chose selections from his six-section suite written for this group, along with a select few known jazz-charts. TRIP originated in the fall of 2012 and issued its eponymous album TRIP (HighNote Records, 2014).

Lean in both physique and delivery, Harrell's lustrous satin sounds on trumpet and more angular forms on flugelhorn had the audience listening with rapt attention. The complex harmonies and unison segments with saxophonist Turner were as if from one personage. Harrell's linear solos conveyed both bright and shaded tones, his ballads soulful and poignant, evidencing his ability to play rapid, sometimes staccato phrasing as well as more meandering tempos.

Saxophonist Turner perfectly complemented Harrell, handling the longer solos and merging for their duet segments. Stylish and energized bassist Okegwo underscored and enriched each chart with varying shades of sound, while drummer Cruz delivered complex figures as well as straight swing styles to solidify this remarkable quartet.

Harrell spoke sparingly during the set, at 69 still touring and composing despite a longtime diagnosis of paranoid schizophrenia, a chemical imbalance of the brain that requires ongoing medications to counteract its behavioral effects. The most obvious element of his condition/treatment has been his habit of moving to the side of his band when not soloing, lowering his horn to his one side to stand stoop-shouldered, his eyes downcast under shaggy, grey hair, in a trance-like position. But each time he returned center-stage to play, his body language shifted into full performance mode. This genius musician has not let his condition prevent continuing to create in his impressively unique style.

Harrell's performance was part of the fifth annual "Nous N'Irons Pas a New York" ("We're not going to New York") summer festival that featured that city's jazz stars at Duc des Lombards for six weeks.

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