ROMAN NIGHTS Detroit Free Press review

By Mark Stryker
Music Critic

The title track of trumpeter, flugelhornist and composer Tom Harrell's "Roman Nights" ( * * * *, High Note) is a ballad of such pure melodic grace and simple harmonic beauty that it brings tears to my eyes every time I hear it. Harrell has always had an ear for poetry; even his complex pieces retain singable ideas and attractive harmony that's challenging without sounding pedantic.

But "Roman Nights," with its sequential phrases sighing like the soft breath of a lover, is special. Harrell and resourceful pianist Danny Grissett give the song a heartrending duo performance, expanding on the mood and melody in their improvisations.

Elsewhere, Harrell's quintet -- with tenor saxophonist Wayne Escoffery, bassist Ugonna Okegwo and drummer Johnathan Blake -- reaffirms its place at the top of the post-bop mainstream. Harrell's originals explore an expansive universe of Latin and contemporary rhythms in addition to loose, driving swing, and the band sounds relaxed and dialed in at all times.