Tom Harrell – Roman Nights – High Note HCD 7207 – 62:36 ****½:

(Tom Harrell, trumpet and Flugelhorn; Wayne Escoffery, tenor sax; Danny Grissett, piano and Fender Rhodes; Ugonna Okegwo, bass; Jonathan Blake, drums)

Tom Harrell has kept his latest band together for some time now and it shows. Tom is fully in control on Roman Nights as he wrote all the compositions, and co-produced the CD. Having seen Harrell in person, it is remarkable when he walks offstage and disappears, yet when it is time for another solo or for an ensemble chorus, he is right back at the microphone almost with telepathic quickness.

Tom is noted for writing winning melodies that both charm and inspire; he alludes to this in the liner notes written by noted jazz historian Doug Ramsey, when he states that “…having a melody that’s song-like and simple is a way to link with the listener.” I’d have to add that having a quintet that is as sharp as Harrell’s quintet makes Tom’s mission that much more consistently approachable.

Let the Children Play is a strong example of this band’s skills. The track open with a winning melody simply stated before Wayne Escoffery begins his tenor run, mixing the edgy with swing. Harrell next steps up and his warm tone has such lyricism that the rest of the band can cook behind him both with Grissett’s crystalline lightning fast comping, to Blake’s driving beat spurring on Harrell’s solo. It’s a winning combination and so easy on the ears.

The title track is simply gorgeous and sounds like it would be perfect as a theme to a movie. Few can match Harrell for Flugelhorn beauty. Grissett’s accompaniment is spot on here as well and demands your rapt attention.

Aqua picks up the pace considerably, and is a centerpiece for Jonathan Blake, as the quintet defers to his power, though Escoffery goes off on a “Coltranesque” tear midway through the track.

Harvest Song has a calming beauty with Harrell’s trumpet being set off by Grissett’s Fender Rhodes light touch, and a soulful Escoffery solo.

Roman Nights bears repeated listening sessions as with each visit you will find new auditory treasures to savor. Its sound mix and mastering are also first rate.

TrackList: Storm Approaching, Let the Children Play, Roman Nights, Study in Sound, Agua, Obsession, Harvest Song, Bird in Flight, Year of the Ox

– Jeff Krow