It’s tempting to call Moving Picture stripped-down Tom Harrell. On the lion’s share of his albums recorded during this century, the trumpeter has worked within a quintet configuration, most often inviting a saxophonist along for the ride. For this latest effort, as on 2014’s Trip, he’s down to a quartet. But where that release was piano-less, Moving Picture features Danny Grissett on that instrument, alongside bassist Ugonna Okegwo and drummer Adam Cruz. All are veterans of previous Harrell sessions.
Nearly all of the 10 Harrell-composed tracks here (some new, some revisits) are stuffed with sound. On the opening title tune, we’re greeted with a full-bodied section of multi-tracked trumpets, and on other cuts he duets happily with himself. Mainly, though, the focus remains on variations on the core quartet, with Harrell often basking in the spotlight. On the noirish ballad “Different Clouds,” he harmonizes with himself casually and soulfully, breaks into a high-register solo and then cedes the floor to Okegwo before rejoining … himself.
Most tracks, however, play by standard quartet rules. “Montego Bay,” not surprisingly, exudes a Caribbean vibe as it skips along; “Gee, A. Bee” kicks up the funk; “Four the Moment” comes closest to basic bop and affords each musician ample showcase space. Toward the end, Harrell unexpectedly and temporarily changes course: The 12-minute “Vibrer” dismisses the rhythm section altogether—it’s just the trumpeter and Grissett, together and alone—and “Sea,” up next, adds only Okegwo back into the mix. Nothing against the fine Cruz, but that back-to-back pair of tunes is as satisfying as anything on Moving Picture. If Harrell should choose to slash personnel even further and go completely drummer-less next time out, it wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world.