Is there really a more accomplished trumpeter than Tom Harrell? How about composer? HOW ABOUT BAND LEADER? This 3 in one package guy filled the Zipper Hall with his supple band of longtime associates Wayne Escoffrey/ts and Johnathan Blake/dr as well as the gospel greasy alto of Jaleel Shaw and the dynamic bass duo of Ugonna Okegwo and Esperanza Spalding which created a ripple of rhythms and grooves the entire evening.
Performing from the Colors of A Dream album, the band mixed melodious hard and driving post bop sounds that melded the molten gold front line horns along with Spalding’s wordless vocals on pieces such as “State” that the mixture of pulse and harmonies was like a sonic tonic. The horns clipped out staccato steps on the visceral “Tango” as Escoffrey’s tenor sighed and moaned while Shaw’s alto wailed. The two bassists went back and forth like a jai alai match on the trickling “Blues” and Spalding herself delivered some guileless and crystal clear vocals on the sensuous “Velejar.” The highlight, however, had to be Harrell’s delivery of “Family” which had his fluffy horn supported only by the gentle ripple of the two basses, alternating between rhythm and solo. The gentle warmth of Harrell’s horn was as palpable as a therapeutic neck pillow as the melding of brass and strings created a restful balm. Closing with a shuffling blues, Harrell and company showed that intellect and body can easily co-exist as friends, which is one of the glories of jazz.
Upcoming shows include Sept 20 with Korean vocalist Youn Sun Nah w/ Swedish guitarist Ulf Wakenius and Dwight Trible w/ pianist John Beasley. On Sept 26, Toshiko Akiyoshi brings her trio to the Red Cat. Also, check the site for the Angel City Jazz Fest which starts the same week! Great stars like Wadada Leo Smith and Anthony Braxton!