THE TIME OF THE SUN - Audiophile Audition review "Harrell Continues to Impress"

Tom Harrell - The Time of the Sun - High Note HCD 7222, 62:15 ****:

(Tom Harrell, trumpet and flugelhorn; Wayne Escofffery, tenor sax; Danny Grissett, piano and Fender Rhodes; Ugonna Okegwo, bass; Jonathan Blake, drums)

It was just a year ago that we reviewed Tom Harrell’s last recording for High Note Records, Roman Nights.
At that time I marveled at Harrell’s skill in writing catching melodies that both please and intrigue. Well, Tom is back with the same group (always a positive sign as an active band led by an accommodating leader usually brings more positive results.)

Recorded at Systems Two Recording studio in Brooklyn by ace engineer Mike Marciano, The Time of the Sun adds to Harrell’s significance as a brilliant composer. Tom honed his craft with both Horace Silver and Phil Woods, and his most current CDs reflect the emphasis on the groove that especially Silver brought out in his bands.

The Time of the Sun is the fourth CD in a row that Tom has recorded with this working aggregation. They had just finished a November 2010 tour and a week at New York’s venerable Village Vanguard before going into studio to make this recording. This “seasoning" shows immediately on the opening title track after some solar sound effects. Grissett’s Fender Rhodes voicings are interstellar, adding to the mood that Harrell’s warm tone sets, and Jonathan Blake adds a pounding pulse that propels the melody upward.

“Estuary" sets a mellow mood and Harrell’s unparalleled lyrical tone is one that any brass fan will embrace. Grissett and Escoffery also get a chance to show their talents here when soloing. “Ridin" takes off fully charged and Blake’s power and Grissett’s comping on the Rhodes’ keyboard clearly inspire Harrell and the group’s skills bring to mind the mid-60s Miles Davis band. Bassist Okegwo, in his twelfth year with Harrell, gets a nice bass solo on “The Open Door" before the horns blend and Grissett shows his mettle on piano.

“Dream Text" has a radio-friendly melody with hard bop motif, complete with a winning ensemble blend that will appeal to jazz fans of most any genre. Put it in your Pandora mix for late night listening. “Modern Life" also fits into this category as its effervescence bubbles over with exuberance - clearly this band is rock solid in setting a groove.

“Cactus" will win you over as Grissett’s vamp and Escoffery’s fat bluesy runs will keep your feet in motion that continues when Harrell steps up and adds to the changes. “Otra" closes out the CD with a Latin/ Caribbean mix that would bring a smile to Horace Silver, Harrell’s former employer.

Harrell has entered the upper echelon of jazz composers bringing a swing and polished sheen that his cohesive quintet handles with panache. Let’s hope that we don’t have to wait for another year to revisit this excellence.

TrackList: The Time of the Sun, Estuary, Ridin’, The Open Door, Dream Text, Modern Life, River Samba, Cactus, Otra

-- Jeff Krow