Tom Harrell – Colors Of A Dream – HighNote HCD 7254, 64:58 ****:
(Tom Harrell – trumpet, Flugelhorn; Jaleel Shaw – alto saxophone/except track 10; Wayne Escoffery – tenor saxophone/except track 10; Esperanza Spalding – bass /except track 2, voice/except tracks 6, 9, 10; Ugonna Okehwo – bass; Johnathan Blake – drums/except track 10)
“But listen to the colour of your dreams” so wrote Lennon and McCartney as part of their lyrics to the song “Tomorrow Never Knows.” Whether Tom Harrell was familiar with this lyric as he was choosing the title of this album only he will know. Nevertheless all the compositions that Harrell delivers for Colors Of a Dream are evocative of a dream-like state expressed in the music.
Over the course of his career as a leader, which has now stretched for more than three decades, Tom Harrell has developed a well-deserved reputation as a composer of harmonically and rhythmically multifaceted pieces. The first three tracks of this album “Tango”, “Velejar” (Sail Away) and “Phantasy In Latin” confirm this status. Using the vocal artistry of bassist Esperanza Spalding, Harrell blends her vocalizing into these Latin-based numbers to tasteful effect, using her voice like a horn. This extends the interplay possibilities with all the front line players, but especially Harrell whose big tone floats out in front of it all. Spalding continues in the same vein with “Seventy,” following the harmonious lines of the song.
“Blues 2013” is an interesting caper which features both bass players with Spalding on the right channel and Ugonna Okehwo on the left. All the horn players are pretty much left to their own devises to bring a cohesion to what is a free-form piece. Over the final five tracks of the album, it becomes quite evident that while this is Harrell’s disc, Spalding is an indispensable element and it would be a very different session without her presence. On “Nite Life”, “Even If” and “Goin’ Out”, Spalding’s presence is undeniable with either her wordless vocals or scatting around which Harrell and the other band members laying down their groove. “Walkway and “Family” are strong numbers on which both bassists are again present, but in the latter it is just them along with Harrell thereby providing a warm environment to play off each other to great effect.
Tom Harrell clearly shows he is not intimidated by the unknown and has delivered an album filled with suggestive harmonic exploration.
TrackList: Tango; Velejar (Sail Away); Phantasy In Latin; State; Seventy; Blues 2013; Nite Life; Even If; Walkway; Family; Goin’Out