From his emergence in the bands of Horace Silver and Phil Woods through various groups of his own, trumpeter Tom Harrell has occupied a special place in jazz. A model of consistency, he’s regarded not only as one of the strongest soloists at work – a player of surpassing lyrical intensity – but also one of the finest composers. And as revealed by his terrific recent album, Colors of a Dream, a real departure for him, he’s not one to rest on his laurels.
Few mainstream jazz recordings of recent vintage have the freshness factor of this one, which one jumps out at you with its airy, open melodies, wordless vocals and bright Latin accents. In an unusual swap, Harrell’s band has no piano and two basses – one of which belongs to charming Grammy winner Esperanza Spalding, whose lilting vocals and springy presence alongside distinguished string man Ugonna Okegwo gives the music an irresistible lift.
Harrell also will be joined by his longtime tenor saxophone sidekick Wayne Escoffery, alto saxophonist Jaleel Shaw of Roy Haynes’ Fountain of Youth band and drummer Johnathan Blake. This is, indeed, a dream band – one we may not get to see again for a while, considering all the individual commitments the members have. Whatever Harrell’s next move is, we can count on something memorable.