A powerful spirituality illuminates Tom Harrell’s work, but that doesn’t mean that there’s anything pretentious or dogmatic going on. An irrepressible sense of play also abounds; trumpeter/flugelhornist Harrell sounds both delighted by his musical quest and enraptured by what he discovers. “The Fast,” this set’s opener, might easily have been titled “The Feast”—it’s a veritable smorgasbord of inspiration, propelled by a surging drive reminiscent of Africa/Brass-era Coltrane. (Johnathan Blake’s drumming, reminiscent of Elvin Jones, accentuates that feel.) Harrell’s solo work summons quickness, precision, and focus along with deep melodicism and tonal surety; saxophonist Mark Turner and guitarist Charles Altura, even when they ramp down the velocity, are no less rigorous in their imaginative flow, and their timbre is likewise sure yet flexible and expressive.
Myriad moods and references enrich this set, from the Celtic tinge of “Dublin” and “The Isle” through the meld of stateliness and improvisational exuberance in “Coronation” to the dexterous postbop intensity of such offerings as “Blue” and “Ground.” “Taurus,” the concluding number, seems to both encapsulate and summarize the gifts Harrell shares with us here, as his muted trumpet skips with precision, dexterity, and brio, his solos so logically constructed that one could almost believe he’s able to fully imagine each note, each run, each statement in its entirety before playing it.