Mon, August 25, 2014
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2014-08-25 6:30 pm
Tom Harrell Colors of a Dream with Johnathan Blake, Wayne Escoffery, Ugonna Okegwo, Jaleel Shaw, and Esperanza Spalding at World Cafe Live At Queen
While many baby boomers and artists are heading into retirement, trumpeter and composer Tom Harrell, at a youthful-looking 67, is busier than ever and at the top of his game. He's excited about one of his new projects, Colors of a Dream. The band’s name was inspired by Harrell’s fascination with dream imagery, as in the surrealism of Salvador Dali. The veteran musician (like Carl Jung and the concept of dreamtime in aboriginal Australian mythology) feels that we can all learn from our dreams
Colors of a Dream celebrates a new group, a new sound, a new album. Harrell has added alto saxophonist Jaleel Shaw, and Esperanza Spalding doubling on bass and vocal, to core members of his long-standing quintet: Wayne Escoffery on tenor sax, Ugonna Okegwo on bass and Johnathan Blake on drums. While this group is piano-less, it is not without chords. There is plenty of harmony played by the horns, voice and the basses. Harrell himself explains that he chose the instrumentation to achieve clarity in sound, the kind of clarity that one experiences at a beautiful park on a sunny day. He wrote the music with this instrumentation in mind and specifically to feature Spalding on voice and bass. The repertoire of the group ranges from Latin to swing to funk, with emphasis on catchy melodies and driving grooves and polyrhythms played by the two basses. Spalding's vocal work for this band provides a touch of dreaminess to the musical landscapes. Harrell premiered this group at the Village Vanguard in late March of 2013 and headed to the studio to record the album the following week.
Harrell all but transcends musical labels. He's a jazz trumpeter known for his burnished tone and lyrical improvisational style but his music runs the gamut from the modal and melodic to uncommon modernisms that sonically broach the film soundtrack and/or the avant-garde. Never content to stay the course, he continues to explore and expand his musical vision with each new project. Colors of a Dream is in fact one of three projects he recorded in 2013, along with yet-to-be-released albums, Trip (with Mark Turner, Ugonna Okegwo and Adam Cruz) and First Impressions, a chamber ensemble recording for which he wrote arrangements of works by Debussy and Ravel. For almost 50 years, he has steadily created new music, building a formidable body of work. Harrell's discography is a mile long; he's made over 270 recordings, won Down Beat and JazzTimes polls many times over and has been nominated for numerous Grammy awards. His compositions are much in demand; among the many artists who've recorded or performed his work include Carlos Santana, Cold Blood, Azteca, Vince Guaraldi, Hank Jones, Kenny Barron, Ron Carter, Joe Lovano, Chris Potter, Kenny Werner, The Vanguard Jazz Orchestra, Danish Radio Big Band, Germany's WDR Big Band, Brussels Jazz Orchestra, Amsterdam's Metropole Jazz Orchestra, Orchestre National de Lorraine and Arturo O'Farrill & the Afro-Latin Jazz Orchestra.
Born in Urbana Illinois and raised in Los Altos, California, Harrell studied music composition at Stanford University. After playing with Stan Kenton and Woody Herman, he moved to NY in the early 1970s to join the quintet of Horace Silver, with whom he made five albums. He's been based in NY since but is often on the road, performing to audiences world-wide. His musical associations include those with Sam Jones (with whom he co-led a big band in the late 70s), Bill Evans, Dizzy Gillespie, Phil Woods, Charlie Haden, Art Farmer, Joe Lovano, Jane Monheit, Kathleen Battle, and Sheila Jordan, Philip Catherine, and Jim Hall. Over the course of his career, he's led his own trios, quartets, quintets, big bands, chamber orchestras and ensembles.
Colors of a Dream is an apt title for the album. The band is Tom Harrell's dream band and musical family; everybody in it loves making music together. The group's special synergy is evident from the first note to the last.
World Cafe Live At Queen, 500 North Market Street