Tom Harrell, First Impressions (High Note)
The fascination of jazz musicians with French impressionist composers goes back at least as far as Bix Beiderbecke. Among his contemporary successors, Tom Harrell is Beiderbecke’s counterpart not only as a lyrical soloist but also as a musical thinker influenced by the impressionists’ extended harmonies, exotic scales and other devices. This album is rich in his achievement in both areas. His trumpet and flugelhorn work is among his most moving on record, the muted solo on Debussy’s “Beau Soir” a masterpiece of construction, restraint and wizardry of execution. With his arrangements of their pieces for a nine-instrument ensemble including strings, Harrell honors the spirits of Debussy and Ravel. His suite “Perspectives” is in every sense a complement to their works. Violinist Meg Okura, cellist Rubin Kodheli and Harrell quintet members Wayne Escoffery, Danny Grissett, Ugonna Okegwo and Jonathan Blake are superb here.