ROMAN NIGHTS - Jazziz review

It's obvious from the outset that this isn't going to be one of those albums that sneaks up on the listener. No, Harrell and his bandmates jump in and grab you right from the start. "Storm Approaching" opens with complementary riffs from Harrell's trumpet and Wayne Escoffery's saxophone, while Johnathan Blake's deft trap work sets off the licks. Harrell then takes away a lyrical solo, followed by Escoffery with support from the rhythm section of Blake, pianist Danny Grissett (whose own solo is both complex and delightful) and bassist Ugonna Okegwo. The approach is similar- with an especially imaginative solo from Escoffery --on the lilting following track, "Let the Children Play," which is a bit more straightforward. The title track is a gentle ballad that nonetheless demonstrates Harrell's technical prowess. "Study in Sound" showcases Harrell first and then the always inquisitive and expressive Escoffery before Okegwo gets his shot up front.

The quintet clearly listens to one another. Even when Harrell and Escoffery are at their most fiery and frenetic, as on "Agua," and "Obsession," the band is right there with them. Grissett's solos are uniformly inspired but he's also brilliant in the background. Okegwo keeps things solid enough for his bandmates to frolic at will. And those paying close attention will realize what a gem this band has manning the drum kit. Blake thrives at setting things up for either the horns or Grissett's piano and Fender Rhodes. His stickwork is seldom flashy, but always deft and animated, keeping things moving along. By turns passionate, lyrical and joyous, this engaging disc is sure to find its way to many "Best of" lists for 2010.