WBGO Blog
  • Tom Harrell: Live at the Village Vanguard

    April 8, 2009. Posted by Joshua Jackson.

    Photo by John Rogers
    Photo by John Rogers

    Listen to the archived concert.

    Visit the story on NPR Music.
    Experience the series.
    Hear an interview with Tom Harrell on The Checkout.
    Support WBGO Programming on Public Radio.

  • Tom Harrell: Live At The Village Vanguard

    April 8, 2009. Posted by WBGO.

    image
    Tom Harrell. (Image Credit: John Rogers for NPR/johnrogersnyc.com)

    A veteran known for his lyrical compositions and full, round tone, Tom Harrell is one of the jazz world's most respected mainstream trumpeters. He's racked up accolades from critics and reader polls, his discography houses more than 20 discs under his own name, and he's been gigging with jazz legends for 40 years. He brought his horn, his quintet and his experience into the Village Vanguard, in a concert broadcast live by WBGO and streamed live on the Web at NPR Music.

    As was expected, Harrell called several numbers from his quintet's latest album Prana Dance, released earlier this year, including the hard-swinging opener "Sequenza" and deftly playful "Marching." But the group also ran through several of Harrell's older tunes, showcasing a diverse catalog which remained immediately accessible in spite of complex time signatures, rhythms and harmonic layers. Harrell himself proved a stylistic chameleon, forceful when taking on unclassifiable modal jams ("Blue News"), adept on mutable Latin rhythms (set closer "Otra"), and rich and warm on slower, atmospheric tunes (the ballad "Nighttime"). On stage, he was backed by a band of first-call New York sidemen who all lead their own touring bands: saxophonist Wayne Escoffery and pianist Danny Grissett had plenty of time to stretch out for themselves, and bassist Ugonna Okegwo and drummer Johnathan Blake buoyed the band in both its hairiest and calmest moments.

    Harrell has plenty of experience in big bands: One of his first big touring gigs was with Stan Kenton, and he has recorded many of his own large ensembles. But he's earned his chops in extended stays in small groups, notably those of Horace Silver and Phil Woods. Harrell has been recording his own combos since the 1970s, and has been working with his current quintet since 2007's Light On.

    Harrell does it all in spite of — or perhaps as a distraction from — a potentially debilitating diagnosis of paranoid schizophrenia. Though medications keep his illness under control, he is known to become noticeably more animated as soon as he lifts the horn to his mouth. Village Vanguard regulars should be familiar with Harrell's sound; in recent years, he has played a week at the club every year, and in 2002, he released a live album recorded on its stage.

    Set List

    • "Sequenza"
    • "Blue News"
    • "Marching"
    • "Nighttime"
    • "Otra"

    Personnel

    • Tom Harrell, trumpet
    • Wayne Escoffery, tenor sax
    • Danny Grissett, piano
    • Ugonna Okegwo, bass
    • Johnathan Blake, drums

    Credits

    • Josh Jackson, producer and host
    • David Tallacksen, mix engineer
    • Darren Jones, recording assistant
  • Woodwind Master Bud Shank Dies at 82

    April 3, 2009. Posted by Joshua Jackson.

    Add new comment | Filed under: Notes
    Photo: Elizabeth Becker
    Elizabeth Becker

    Saxophonist and flutist Clifford Everett "Bud" Shank died at his home in Tuscon, Arizona yesterday.  The cause was pulmonary failure.  As a young upstart in the late 1940s, Shank gained prominence as a reed player in both the Charlie Barnet and Stan Kenton big bands.  He was most closely associated with the West Coast jazz scene in its heyday, notably as a member of Howard Rumsey's Lighthouse All-Stars, where he further developed a cool but evocative alto swing that was his calling card.  Shank also recorded in small chamber jazz ensembles, and is credited as a co-leader on Brazilliance, some of the first sessions of jazz and bossa nova in the United States, long before the cross-cultural pollination became a national phenomenon.

    Shank was also a tremendous flutist, though he swore off the instrument later in his career.  Many of his best reed dates were recorded for World Pacific records in the 50s and 60s.  He also cast himself as a solid studio musician in Los Angeles, where he joined other jazz players looking for steady work [you can hear his flute solo on "California Dreamin'" from the Mamas and the Papas]. Shank eventually teamed up with his studio mates - bassist Ray Brown, drummer Jeff Hamilton, and his longtime associate from the Kenton band, guitarist Laurindo Almeida - and formed the popular LA Four band.  In more than six decades of performance, Bud Shank contributed a wide angle shot of improvised music.  He will be missed.

    Feel free to share some of your favorite Bud Shank recordings in the comments section.  I love his teamwork with fellow Kenton bandmate Laurindo Almeida on Brazilliance, Shank's work with trumpeter Shorty Rogers, as well as the Improvisations record with sitar master, Ravi Shankar.  And that's just scratching the surface of a very long career.
    -Josh