Tom Harrell ‘Colors of a Dream’ (HighNote) 4/5

tom-harrellTrumpeter and leader Tom Harrell has an impressive CV that takes in Latin jazz (Azteca,Santana), reflective piano leaders (Kenny Barron, Hank Jones, Horace Silver) and big bands. However, since 1976 he has been working as a leader and recording and composing some of the subtlest of melodies that countless musicians have subsequently covered. As a follow up to the 2010 set ‘The time of the sun’ (High Note), his long-term formation has been augmented on this occasion with a second bassist in Esperanza Spalding who doubles up on vocals and an extra horn player in Jaleel Shaw. In keeping with Harrell’s philosophy, the music is eclectic, yet accessible with a nod towards his earlier interest in soul and funk music, James Brown, Earth,Wind and Fire and Stevie Wonder all making an impact upon him and they have been assimilated into a larger cohesive sound. Anything but formulaic, ‘Phantasy in Latin’ is the kind of innovative Latin-themed piece that one might expect from Harrell and there is even some scat vocals alongside the tasty horn work before a jam-style session sees the number out. Spalding takes on lead vocals on the attractive Brazilian-influenced ballad ‘Velejar’ while in a more uptempo vein ‘Even if’ features a catchy bass line and horn riff with wordless vocals and some latinized drum beats. An R & B flavoured number ‘Goin’ out’ has a strong groove to it and is a fine way for the album to end. What this album shows is that the still youthful in spirit Harrell is simply one of today’s finest writers as well as being an outstanding trumpeter.

Tim Stenhouse