Tom Harrell – the master returns

In the course of his career, Tom Harrell has left his mark across a wide range of styles, including propulsive bebop, rhythmic Afro-Cuban jazz, studied classical compositional procedures and soothing smooth jazz.

In any performance or recording by Harrell, who epitomises what could be termed as the golden age of jazz, you will search in vain for Freudian high-note jabs and dazzling displays of over-heated velocity full of empty technique. Less is more, as they say.

To be frank, there’s a remarkable ease and affability to his latest album – Oak Tree – a recording which features melodies that occasionally sound as inevitable as life itself.

And these melodies are played by a quartet which may be one of Harrell’s most symbiotic ensembles; the fluency of pianist Luis Perdomo sometimes providing extensions and commentary to Harrell’s improvisational thoughts, drummer Adam Cruz constantly adjusting both his tone and the intensity of his pulse as each composition dictates, and bassist Ugonna Okegwo a steady anchor who offers a casual twist (just to keep you on your toes).

One could write volumes to describe Harrell’s playing but, simply put, he is one of those rare figures who has extended the communicative possibilities of the jazz trumpet while establishing himself as one of the art form’s most important composers.

Oak Tree

Oak Tree is released by High Note Records (HCD 7332).