Superb trumpeter Tom Harrell, who has been releasing recordings as a leader since 1989, has a new album out, Something Gold, Something Blue, on HighNote featuring fellow trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire, as well as guitarist Charles Altura, bassist Ugonna Okegwo and drummer Johnathan Blake. Harrell is a prolific arranger and composer and a mysterious yet mesmerizing presence in concert and a regular in the recording studio. His resume is impressive, with contributions to bands led by Stan Kenton, Horace Silver and Joe Lovano. He has written scores for ballets and arrangements for symphony orchestras and his last HighNote album “First Impressions” (HCD 7276) was in the Top Ten Best Jazz albums of 2015 in the 64th Annual Downbeat Critic's Poll while Akinmusire and Harrell took the top two slots in the trumpet category in the same poll.
Tom Harrell has been on a roll since returning to action following a four-year hiatus during the mid-'00s. The trumpeter/composer's third release for HighNote retains the same consistent level of quality that marked his previous two for the label, Light On and Prana Dance, both of which shared the personnel found on Roman Nights: tenor saxophonist Wayne Escoffery, pianist Danny Grissett, bassist Ugonna Okegwo, and drummer Johnathan Blake.
Since the 70s, trumpeter Tom Harrell has branded a prolific stature within the annals of modern jazz as an artisan who possesses an enviable technique marked by his exquisite phrasings, silky tone and fluid progressions. Even during pieces constructed on gutsy or penetrating ensemble work, Harrell has an uncanny way of dishing out ferocious licks with heartfelt overtones and a penchant for eloquently rebuilding themes and regenerating numerous slants on a given melody. Here, the trumpeter lines up with celebrated and eternally versatile bandleader, saxophonist Mark Turner (Kurt Rosenwinkel, OAM Trio).
Tom Harrell is in a classical mood on his genre-blending First Impressions. This isn’t new for the brilliant trumpeter-composer. The six-part suite The Adventures of a Quixotic Character, off Harrell’s 2014 album Trip, had a classical feel to it, and this new album’s liner notes, by Robert Baird, trace Harrell’s blending of classical music and jazz in his earlier work. But the emphasis of that fusion is heightened on First Impressions, and the jazz/classical recipe is seasoned with tastes of other styles as well.
Following up his 2007 effort Light On (HighNote), trumpeter Tom Harrell continues to document his original compositional voice and uncommonly tight working band with Prana Dance. Again there's the youthful, hungry lineup of tenor saxophonist Wayne Escoffery, pianist Danny Grissett and drummer Johnathan Blake, with long-serving Harrell stalwart Ugonna Okegwo digging in on bass. The material is all original, all new, teeming with harmonic secrets and an uncanny marriage of the simple and complex, not to mention ample possibilities for elaboration in the live setting—as the band proved during a galvanizing Thursday night set at New York's Village Vanguard in April, 2009.
Colors of a Dream is the sixth HighNote Records album by trumpeter-composer Tom Harrell, featuring two basses played by Ugonna Okegwo and Esperanza Spalding, with the latter doubling on vocal, Jaleel Shaw on alto saxophone, Wayne Escoffery on tenor saxophone, and Johnathan Blake on drums. According to JazzTimes, this album deviates from Harrell's previous works. The use of piano is absent, and the three horns often play in block-chord formation. There are hints of Latin jazz, R&B and indie-rock. According to the review, "Colors of a Dream may deviate, but it never disappoints."