Tom Harrell – Moving Picture (HighNote)
Trumpeter/flugelhornist Tom Harrell doesn’t always receive the attention he deserves due partly to the subtlety of his attributes. His intelligence is of the quiet and confident variety, and stylistically he tends to favor understatement and taste to brash ostentation. But he seems incapable of putting out a bad album, and Moving Picture, his latest, is another worthy addition to his canon.
The setting — Harrell’s is the sole horn in a quartet that includes pianist Danny Grissett, bassist Ugonna Okegwo and drummer Adam Cruz — suggests that he’s interested in seizing the spotlight this time around. But he remains extremely generous to his comrades. “Time Passage” begins with a beguilingly eccentric showcase for Cruz, with Harrell waiting for more than a fifth of the tune to make his presence felt, and the extended introduction of “Vibrer” is all Grissett. The keyboardist’s exploratory chording and melodic flourishes are exquisite, as is Okegwo’s insistent pulse in the early sections of “Sea.”
Fortunately, Harrell’s modesty makes the moments when he steps to the fore that much more satisfying. His soloing is lush and verdant throughout the breezy “Montego Bay,” slyly complex on the atmospheric “Different Clouds” and thrillingly funky and sensual during “Gee, A. Bee.” As for “Happy Ring,” it’s one of several tunes here with a pop sensibility that Harrell manages to infuse with unexpected depth.
The apparent effortlessness with which Harrell performs will undoubtedly lead some listeners to underrate Moving Picture, as has happened all too often over the course of his career. Making difficult things seem easy is both his talent and his curse.