Tom Harrell - Prana Dance


Recorded at Bennett Studios, Englewood NJ on May 29th and June 10th, 2008

Release date: January 27th 2009

Availability: CD, MP3 Download, iTunes

Prana Dance cover

This much awaited album features the same band as on his successful 2007 record "Light On" - Tom Harrell (trumpet, flugelhorn), Wayne Escoffery (tenor sax), Danny Grissett (piano and Fender Rhodes) Ugonna Ukegwo (bass) and Jonathan Blake (drums).

There is increased authority in the playing here of the kind that comes from keeping a band of talented musicians together on a permanent basis. The understanding that only comes from long-term collaboration is evident everywhere, taking the empathies displayed on "Light On" to a more advanced level.

Tom Harrell photo

There are eight new compositions, all by Tom Harrell.

"Marching" begins as a stilted march, a theme waiting for an outcome and this is resolved superbly by Tom Harrell's long fluent solo and Jonathan Blake's 'concealed' soloing over the long closing theme.

'Prana' means breath in Sanskrit but it also implies the idea in the Hindu Upanishads of the summoning of one of the essential forces of life as a resource in the goal of self-realisaton beyond self-identity. "Prana" begins breathlessly enough but soon resolves itself into a long and meaningful meditation fuelled by subtle rhythm changes beneath challenging trumpet, tenor sax and Fender Rhodes solos. The piece ends at a point where you could be forgiven for imagining an outbreak of a thunderstorm as a prelude to the beginning of the Doors' "Riders On The Storm" which, in a demonstration of how far progressive rock has informed current day jazz, could logically follow.

The harmony horn delivery of the opening theme of "Sequenza" typifies so much that is memorable about the arrangements on the album as a whole. The breakout into a more uptempo, slinky, blues-inspired delivery with superb Tom Harrell soloing is a real strength.

On "Maharaja" and "Ride", Tom Harrell risks what he has often risked in his career; the reliance on themes that edge strongly towards soft jazz and the musically trite. But where this works is in the tension between that risk of blandness and the sudden realization that what is being played in the horn solos is revelatory, perhaps because of the unfavorable context. Here Wayne Escoffery's sax playing is as strong and illuminating as Tom Harrell's trumpet/ flugelhorn playing.

"The Call" returns to an edgy, angular theme with more than a hint of dissonance in the harmonization of the horns. Ahead of involving soprano sax and trumpet solos, Danny Grissett completes the piece with fine Fender Rhodes playing, one of the appealing features of the album throughout.

The two final tracks stand in sharp contrast to each other. "The Sea Serpent" opens slow and reflective, basing itself around evocative Fender Rhodes chords before opening into a mid-tempo piece of real beauty. "In the Infinite" picks up where "Va" on "Light On" left off; upbeat and optimistic.

The album overall continues Tom Harrell's return to prominence and is very highly recommended.

Read our review of Tom Harrell "Light On" here .

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