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Tom Harrell: Wise Children

Jim Santella By

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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 and his lackluster band arrangements, the leader’s 20th album as leader takes a different path than his more successful ventures. The only flicker of fiery emotion comes through “Heavens,” where flute and flugelhorn play slightly out of tune in a “Desafinado” kind of affair. Davis’ lyrical piano phrases assist in interpreting the piece’s intended spirit of soaring originality, but the counterpoint is put in a holding pattern for so long that it begins to tire. Several funk pieces invite the magnetism of foot-tapping and shoulder- shaking rhythms, but they wander in circles without reaching a conclusion.

Key soloists on the session give the program a considerable lift. Gil Goldstein and Antoine Silverman bring a bright sheen to “Paz.” Saxophonists Myron Walden and Jimmy Greene strut around several high points. Marvin Sewell swings “See You at Seven” with a veteran’s blues wisdom. Cassandra Wilson, Dianne Reeves and Jane Monheit share sadder moments with the trumpeter. Claudia Acuña’s interpretation of “Radiant Moon” carries brighter overtones, which, however, are still somewhat restrained. Harrell’s title track carries with it a processional majesty with funereal direction. Timeless in its expressed capacity for intuitive imagery, the piece summarizes this album as a journey, void of adventure and filled with reflective musings.

Track Listing: 1. Paz (5:57) 2. Straight to My Heart [with Dianne Reeves] (5:06) 3. Kalimba (9:32) 4. Radiant Moon [with Claudia Acu

Personnel: Gil Goldstein

Title: Wise Children | Year Released: 2003 | Record Label: BMG

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