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Tom Harrell: Number Five

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Over the course of five albums in five years, trumpeter Tom Harrell has maintained the same swinging quintet. Number Five shows the formidable group forging ever-tight chemistry on seven Harrell originals and four well-chosen covers. The collection kicks off in unorthodox but stirring fashion with Harrell and young drummer Johnathan Blake in a heated, freewheeling duet on Dizzy Gillespie’s “Blue ‘n Boogie.” Pianist Danny Grissett, tenor saxophonist Wayne Escoffery and bassist Ugonna Okegwo join them on the tender Harrell ballad “Right as Rain,” highlighting the trumpeter’s uncanny lyricism.

The aggressively swinging title track has Harrell dancing on top of the uptempo groove with gusto, then tenor saxophonist Escoffery follows with a rampaging solo of his own. Everyone gets a solo taste on this audacious burner, including Blake, who continues to astonish with his fire, facility and intuitive choices on the kit. Harrell’s “Journey to the Stars” is an example of gentle introspection-just soothing flugelhorn over meditative piano ostinatos-while the open-ended “GT” contains some of the his boldest and freest playing on record, spurred on by Blake’s polyrhythmic pulse and Grissett’s provocative chord voicings.

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