Concert review of Tom Harrell Quintet in Ottawa Citizen

Trumpeter at the eye of the storm (concert review)

By peter hum Sun, Jul 4 2010 COMMENTS(0)

Filed under: Tom Harrell, 2010 Ottawa International Jazz Festival, Concert Reviews

The title of trumpeter Tom Harrell's first selection at his TD Ottawa International Jazz Festival show – Storm Approaching – hinted at what was to come with his quintet's show.

His group began with a roar, asserting their driving rhythms as aggressively as any other festival attraction. On this opener, and throughout the concert, the music was dialed up to be both ferocious and loud – even when it was otherwise tuneful and upbeat.

When Harrell wasn't playing, he stood motionless and with his head bowed, a stance explained by the medication the trumpeter takes to manage his schizophrenia. He was very much the calm at the eye of the storm, until he put his horn to his lips and merged with the intensity of the music surrounding him.

On the insistent Obsession, the rocking Bird In Flight, and even the groovy Let The Children Play, Harrell's group brought the music to the boiling point. Harrell would dive in at the appointed time, playing pure, urgent melodies. On Obsession, he sounded not just like Miles Davis, but like Davis on one of his best days.

The ballad Roman Nights, a beautiful duet for pianist Danny Grissett and Harrell on flugelhorn, was the one break from the hard hitting.

Another change of pace would have added variety to the arc of Harrell's set. However, the trumpeter must be presenting the music as he hears and wants it. Perhaps the maelstrom of rhythm and volume is what he needed Sunday to set his personal music free.