Tom Harrell: Oak Tree review – a trumpet player with all the time in the world

(High Note)
Harrell’s sometimes complex compositions exude leisurely warmth

At an age when trumpet players can often sound a little frayed at the edges, Tom Harrell, 76, is in fine form. His tone is soft, but with a bright edge to it, and he seems to have all the time in the world, even when playing the fastest tempo. These 11 tracks are all Harrell’s compositions, played with his own quartet. The music itself is sometimes quite complex, but it’s done with such warmth and apparent ease that even the intricacies have their charm.

That is certainly the case with the opening piece, Evoorg (read it backwards). On the surface it’s a breezy little number, but just trying to follow Harrell’s solo had me tied up in knots. That’s when I realised how brilliant the other three are. Pianist Luis Perdomo, bassist Ugonna Okegwo and drummer Adam Cruz keep it all together and take their own excellent and apposite solos. As if that weren’t enough, Harrell occasionally overdubs a second trumpet part, typically brief and to the point. The basis of his style is latter-day bebop, but there are touches here of jazz-rock, Brazilian, Cuban and even Japanese music.

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