Tom Harrell:  Moving Picture (HighNote)

Review of album from trumpeter, composer and bandleader

Cover of Tom Harrell album Moving Pictures
Cover of Tom Harrell album Moving Pictures

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.

Preview, buy or download songs from the album Moving Pictures by Tom Harrell on iTunes.


Jeff Tamarkin

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Jeff Tamarkin is the former editor of Goldmine, CMJ, Relix, and Global Rhythm. As a writer he has contributed to the New York Daily News, JazzTimes, Boston Phoenix, Harp, Mojo, Newsday, Billboard, and many other publications. He is the author of the book Got a Revolution: The Turbulent Flight of Jefferson Airplane and has contributed to The Guinness Companion to Popular Music, All Music Guide, and several other encyclopedias. He has also served as a consultant to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, NARAS, National Geographic Online, and Music Club Records.