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Tom Harrell: Light On

Jazz critics can’t seem to write a sentence about trumpeter Tom Harrell without mentioning his long battle with schizophrenia (see?). While his illness surely must inform his music, the relationship is more apparent onstage than on record, where he comes across as one of the more pensive craftsmen around. He gets deep inside his own music, dragging the listener in with him. You can get lost in it. It becomes an isolation chamber.

Neil Tesser writes in the liner notes that it takes a couple of days to appreciate Light On fully, and he’s right. The phrase “rewards repeated listens” is often a red flag that an album isn’t very good, but in this case the adage holds up. I didn’t “get” Light On the first time through-it came across as unambitious and undistinguished. By round three it was getting under my skin in a good way. It is at once complicated and accessible, mirthful and mature.

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