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Tom Harrell Chamber Ensemble in La Jolla

Harrell augments his working group with string and woodwind players to interpret the works of Debussy and Ravel.

The blending of chamber music with jazz has been an ongoing experiment for many years. Trumpet master Tom Harrell brought the ideas and music of Ravel and Debussy into the Athenaeum at TSRI last night for two sets of lushly orchestrated chamber jazz with his regular touring group of saxophonist Wayne Escoffery, bassist Ugonna Okegwo, pianist Danny Grissett, drummer Johnathan Blake with violinist Meg Okura, cellist Rubin Kodheli and guitarist Rale Micic in tow.

Opening with Debussy's "Reverie," each instrument entered in succession until a rich harmony was achieved. Suddenly, the band switched gears into a effusive swing propeled by Okegwo's muscular bass and the creative-at-any-volume drums of Blake, a constant source of delight. Grissett soloed fist--shooting ebullient melodic cascades with dashes of the blues. Escoffery followed, on tenor, building a winding spot that peaked with upper register screaming before Harrells melifluous flugelhorn emerged-- darting around the form with warm flourishes.

Escoffery provided most of the excitement for the evening: his post-Trane tenor pumped some much needed blood into a sometimes overly pastel aesthetic. Harrell himself is a master of nuanced intensity and his compact, solos were always inventive.

Grissett soared in several spots--notably in his duet with Harrell on "Voices," where his sense of lyric resonance and intricate multi-note excursions proved a perfect foil for the trumpeter.

Okura balanced fierce dissonance with honeyed textures on "Musique de Cafe," and cut loose with a wild, soulful turn on "Passepied," which also featured Micic on a excellent solo on an otherwise quiet night for the guitarist.

Anytime the drummer got loose led to an excitable dynamic that lifted the music to a higher level. Blake's tight control and sense of drama should make him a valuable commodity in any context.

Very creative stuff-- I've come to expect nothing less from Dan Atkinson and the folks at Athenaeum Jazz.

Photo by Katie Walders, Athenaeum Music & Arts Library

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The blending of chamber music with jazz has been an ongoing experiment for many years. Trumpet master Tom Harrell brought the ideas and music of Ravel and Debussy into the Athenaeum at TSRI last night for two sets of lushly orchestrated chamber jazz with his regular touring group of saxophonist Wayne Escoffery, bassist Ugonna Okegwo, pianist Danny Grissett, drummer Johnathan Blake with violinist Meg Okura, cellist Rubin Kodheli and guitarist Rale Micic in tow.

Opening with Debussy's "Reverie," each instrument entered in succession until a rich harmony was achieved. Suddenly, the band switched gears into a effusive swing propeled by Okegwo's muscular bass and the creative-at-any-volume drums of Blake, a constant source of delight. Grissett soloed fist--shooting ebullient melodic cascades with dashes of the blues. Escoffery followed, on tenor, building a winding spot that peaked with upper register screaming before Harrells melifluous flugelhorn emerged-- darting around the form with warm flourishes.

Escoffery provided most of the excitement for the evening: his post-Trane tenor pumped some much needed blood into a sometimes overly pastel aesthetic. Harrell himself is a master of nuanced intensity and his compact, solos were always inventive.

Grissett soared in several spots--notably in his duet with Harrell on "Voices," where his sense of lyric resonance and intricate multi-note excursions proved a perfect foil for the trumpeter.

Okura balanced fierce dissonance with honeyed textures on "Musique de Cafe," and cut loose with a wild, soulful turn on "Passepied," which also featured Micic on a excellent solo on an otherwise quiet night for the guitarist.

Anytime the drummer got loose led to an excitable dynamic that lifted the music to a higher level. Blake's tight control and sense of drama should make him a valuable commodity in any context.

Very creative stuff-- I've come to expect nothing less from Dan Atkinson and the folks at Athenaeum Jazz.

Photo by Katie Walders, Athenaeum Music & Arts Library

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