NUMBER FIVE review in Audiophile Audition

Tom Harrell – Number Five – High Note HCD 7236, 59:12 ****:

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

The month of May brings more than flowers. It also means another release by noted trumpeter, Tom Harrell. Last May we reviewed The Time of the Sun, and the previous year brought Roman Nights. Tom has kept the same working band for each of his five High Note releases. It has been a wise move as the simpatico between band members is striking. Harrell is so confident in the chemistry of his group that he mentions in the liner notes that four tracks: “Journey to the Stars," “The Question," “Preludium," and the ballad arrangement of “Present" were recorded without ANY prior rehearsal. (Talk about trying to keep things fresh…)

Other changes that Tom brings to this new recording are that with the exception of the title track to 2010’s Roman Nights (done as a duo), this is the first of Harrell’s High Note CDs with his quintet, that he features different sub groupings. Only four compositions feature the full quintet. The rest of the CD has quartet, trio, duo, and even solo tracks. What remains intact, however, is the swing and lyrical blowing of Harrell, a constant that trumpet lovers can depend on from CD to CD.

The song list for Number Five also differs from his other High Note releases as it is the first to feature some non-original tracks – in this case Dizzy Gillespie’s “Blue ‘N’ Boogie," “Star Eyes," and Tadd Dameron’s “A Blue Time." For fans of sumptuous lyrical solo trumpet, you are in for a special treat, as Tom is completely a capella on the gorgeous “Star Eyes," and “A Blue Time."

“Blue ‘n’ Boogie" is done as a rare piano/drum duo, and drummer Blake and Harrell make a formidable hot combination. Harrell and Escoffery blend like a fine cognac on the gorgeous ballad, “Right as Rain." Wayne is also featured on the title track, and on “Melody in B-Flat." Grisset’s Fender Rhodes on “Present" adds a nice touch to the mellow mood that Harrell sets.

To mix things up even more, Harrell even includes an avant number, “GT," where the entire quintet gets to do some free blowing spurred on by drummer Blakes’ propulsive stick work.

Not to worry lyricism fans, as Harrell’s new CD is once again heavily concentrated on swing, gorgeous melodies, and the inimitable warm tone on the horn that Tom provides.

I’m already looking forward to next May…

Tracklist: Blue ‘N’ Boogie, Right as Rain, No. 5, Journey to the Stars, GT, Present, Star Eyes, Preludium, The Question, Melody in B-Flat, A Blue Time

—Jeff Krow