Tom Harrell: A Quest. Part 1, Chemistry and Recognition v (voice, ensemble)

<continuation of previous post>

“It’s so mysterious.”

“It reads like a composition in and of itself.”

Ha + Vo

Given the stylistic breadth and emotional depth of his trumpet playing, it comes as no surprise that Tom Harrell was in great demand by vocalists. I have only recently perused KG systematically for his albums with vocalists, and from the 70s and 80s, a period on this Trip I have already nominally covered, I count some 33 of them! Not that all of these are albums where the leader herself or himself was a vocalist. But in any case there is no way I can go back and visit all of them. From those years I will just mention the quintessential jazz vocalists Mark Murphy and Sheila Jordan.

I have written about the seven albums versatile drummer Jimmy Madison made with Tom Harrell. Madison was Mark Murphy’s go-to drummer for a while, and two of the albums Madison made for Murphy on Muse Records include Harrell in their sometimes hard-driving, sometimes lyrical ensemble units. These are Satisfaction Guaranteed (November 1979) and The Artistry of Mark Murphy (April 1982).

“I’m not everyone’s cup of tea.”

Mark Murphy, as quoted in the liner notes to The Artistry of Mark Murphy

Ok, he said it. I will admit that Murphy’s singing is an acquired taste for me, but I have come around, in part because of his deep jazz repertory, in part because of the love I have for the vocalese tradition, and helped especially by the absolutely swinging groups of all-star musicians Murphy puts together to back him up. Satisfaction Guaranteed is a perfect example. It is dedicated to his friend Eddie Jefferson, a pioneer of vocalese. Harrell only has one solo on the album. It is a great one and for Harrell fans worth the price of the album. It is launched by an on-fire Madison on the opening title track. In general the ensemble and all the soloists swing on the album. They include Slide Hampton on trombone, Richie Cole on alto sax, Ronnie Cuber on baritone sax, pianist Mike Renzi, and guitarist Gene Bertoncini, besides the rhythm team of Madison and Mark Egan on bass. Ray Mantilla plays percussion on Ralph Burns’s classic Bijou. Harrell also provides a strong finish to Jerome Kern’s All The Things You Are.

‘Artistry’ again has Harrell, Gene Bertoncini on guitar, and the rhythm team of Egan (on electric bass) and Madison, this time complemented by George Mraz on acoustic bass and Sue Evans on percussion. Gerry Niewood is on sax and Ben Aronov on keyboards. Harrell was in familiar company. He recorded several times before and after this date with Niewood, including on Jim Hall & David Matthews’s Concierto De Aranjuez (along with Egan and Madison) and Gerry Mulligan’s Walk On The Water. He often played with Mraz, and Harrell and Bob Brookmeyer featured Aronov on Shadow Box a few years earlier.

Mark Murphy wrote lyrics to George Wallington’s Godchild and renamed it The Odd Child.

Here my Godchild comes today
He'll ask me something about life I'd say
A Godfather's only a fountain of wisdom to the child who cannot learn to tell the truth or
      even separate the wheat from the chaff
The poets always have
A wealth of sensible and sound old salve
It's readily, steadily dug if the Godchild will just dig right into life the way it is, and spurn
      the lies, and learn to love and to laugh
[Harrell complements with eight bars]
Life's a lot like jazz they say
...
[A similar eight-bar interlude from Harrell after the penultimate verse.]

After that worthy start, Harrell, Madison, and Sue Evans kick off Victor Schertzinger’s I Don’t Want To Cry Anymore, known to jazz fans especially from Billie Holiday’s rendition. A moment or two / Up in the clouds with you / Then back where I was before / I don’t want to cry anymore — a sentiment many of us can identify with! Instrumentally, the track is especially noteworthy for the drum & percussion team of Madison and Evans.

I said I like Murphy’s jazz-deep repertory and exuberant carrying on of the vocalese tradition. He doesn’t shy away from reprising King Pleasure’s Moody’s Mood For Love, right through and including the “James Moody you can come in now” tag at the end. It’s got some great unison bursts from the horns (did I omit to mention that the arrangements on Artistry are by David Matthews?).

To close Side A, Murphy returns to the children — kids as a rule they’re pretty cool — with a nice medley (he calls it Trilogy for Kids) of sentimental-me favorites, Randy Weston’s Babe’s Blues (think Betty Carter), Weston’s Little Niles (think Lambert, Hendricks & Ross), and Bobby Timmons’s Dat Dere (think Oscar Brown Jr.). The horns are complementary on the latter two.

Sticking with the deep jazz repertory, Side B opens with a heartfelt I Remember Clifford, accompanied only by Bertoncini’s “velvet guitar” (liner notes). The lyrical Harrell introduces and accompanies the standard Autumn Nocturne. And again the lyrical Harrell’s flugelhorn introduces Johnny Mandel and Paul Williams’s Close Enough For Love (though the body of the piece is with the exception of a couple brief Harrell interludes mostly Aronov’s piano and Bertoncini’s guitar)– not perfect yet, but close enough for love. Long ago if not far away (1944) Jerome Kern and Ira Gershwin teamed up to write Long Ago And Far Away. It happens that in 1971 James Taylor wrote a hit song with the same title. In 1982 Mark Murphy was clever enough to combine them into a medley. You have to be listening carefully (or sampling prior versions) to hear where one ends and the other begins. Nice.

Like Mark Murphy, Sheila Jordan is a jazz player’s jazz vocalist, deeply rooted in the hard core jazz tradition. Jordan’s The Crossing, produced by Herb Wong for his BlackHawk Records label, goes to those roots. In her autobiographical Sheila’s Blues she tells of growing up listening to Bird in Detroit. She celebrates her influences and inspirations on Suite For Lady and Prez. She has Harrell on flugelhorn, Kenny Barron on piano, Ben Riley on drums, and Harvey Swartz (known since 2001 as “Harvey S”) on bass. Harrell interweaves with Jordon on Frank Loesser’s Inchworm and has solos on It Never Entered My Mind, You’d Be So Nice To Come Home To, and Until Tomorrow. Equally pleasant are Jordan’s duets with Swartz (Little Willie Leaps, The Crossing, the aforementioned Suite) and with Barron (You Must Believe in Spring).

In the period I am primarily reporting on now (~1990-1995), there are two especially beautiful tracks outside the realm of pure jazz. The opera singer Kathleen Battle made an album (the date is a little vague, but apparently in 1995) titled So Many Stars, and on it she performs a mix of traditional songs, spirituals, and Latin numbers with Brazilian musicians like Cyro Baptista and Romero Lubambo and jazz musicians like Cyrus Chestnut and Grover Washington, Jr. On the title track, which was a big hit by Sergio Mendes & Brazil ’66 in 1968, she is wonderfully complemented by Tom. (There is another beautiful version by Sarah Vaughan on her Brazilian Romance album. The comparison with the jazz singer Vaughan, who could have been an opera singer, and the opera singer Battle is instructive. I love the Battle album, but I find the performance stiff compared to Sarah.)

A year later (1996, though again the date is a bit vague), the British a capella group The King’s Singers made an album called Spirit Voices. Harrell, dubbed in remotely according to KG, accompanies them on their rendition of the Irish folk song She Moved Through The Fair. (This track was later included on an album called When I Fall In Love, A Contemporary Wedding Album. This seems a little spooky if you consider the thrust of the lyrics.)

But going back to jazz and the scat and vocalese tradition …


Fleurine (née Fleurine Elizabeth Verloop) was born and raised in the Netherlands. She was into jazz from a young age. She spent summers with her extended family in Portugal where she learned Portuguese, and eventually Brazilian music became one of her primary passions (for example). She splits her time now between the U.S. and the Netherlands. She has toured and recorded frequently with pianist Brad Mehldau, and she and Mehldau are married and have three children. Meant To Be!, recorded October 1995, was her debut album.

“I have just heard Fleurine’s new CD “Meant To Be!” and I can relax now. Vocalese will survive.”

Jon Hendricks, liner notes

There is so much to like about this album. First, it is a quality product, recorded in the Rudy Van Gelder Studio with A-list musicians, Harrell on flugelhorn, Ralph Moore on tenor sax, Renee Rosnes on piano, Christian McBride on bass, Billy Drummond on drums, and the young Dutchman from her touring group Jesse van Ruller on guitar (she and van Ruller attended the same Conservatory and grew up in the same village in Holland). Identified separately in the credits as a “horn section,” there are veteran Latin flutist and alto saxophonist Bobby Porcelli and the album’s producer and co-arranger Don Sickler on trumpet and flugelhorn. In addition, the album honors the all-too-rare practice of including the lyrics (mostly written by Fleurine) in the CD insert, which is particularly helpful for vocalese (though, as an exception to what I usually experience these days, I have no problem making out her lyrics without a crib).

Second, she came up with an amazing, unobvious, admirably hip selection of jazz tunes.

“Fleurine’s American band was pleasantly surprised at the choice of material, realizing this was not going to be a conventional vocalist date … Ralph Moore expresses his surprise that she chose compositions with melodies that are hard for even horn players to play in tune … Tom Harrell was visibly moved when hearing Fleurine sing her co-written [with Lilian Vieira] Portuguese lyric to his composition [Sail Away].”

Don Sickler, liner notes

Last but not least, Fleurine and Don Sickler’s arrangements and the musicians’ performances themselves are, well, also admirably hip. In short, as Jon Hendricks says, the album is a delightful continuation of the tradition of Lambert, Hendricks & Ross/Bevan, Eddie Jefferson, King Pleasure, et al.

All these qualities are present right off the bat with Lazy and Satisfied (“lazy and satisfied … ever since the day we’re together” — I like the concept!). Kudos to Don Sickler for the horn arrangement; I think that is he and Harrell together coming out of my left and right speakers. They sound mighty chipper. Solos from Ralph Moore and Christian McBride. Fleurine co-wrote Lazy and Satisfied with José (Luis) Lopretti and Escolher with Lopretti and Lilian Vieira. There is an interesting Dutch-Latin American connection here. Vieira was born in the municipality of Teresópolis in the Brazilian state of Rio de Janeiro in 1966. She moved to the Netherlands when she was 23, and she usually shows up in Google search results as a “Dutch-Brazlian” singer. Lopretti is from Montevideo, Uruguay. At 22 he also moved to the Netherlands, where he started his group Candombe. Fleurine says Vieira and Lopretti were her connection to the vibrant Brazilian jazz scene in Amsterdam in the 90s.

We get to know van Ruller’s guitar on My Souldance With You, i.k.a. (instrumentally known as) Soul Dance by Joshua Redman, which the musicians will have known from Redman’s album Wish with Pat Metheny two years earlier. van Ruller’s guitar introduces it, solos on it, and then plays what the CD insert calls “a special chorus by Jesse van Ruller & Fleurine.” In the past I have enjoyed sequencing in playlists the original jazz numbers with their interpretations by, for example, Lambert, Hendricks & Ross, Carmen McRae (Carmen Sings Monk), and Jason Moran (All Rise: A Joyful Elegy for Fats Waller). And once again now with Meant To Be!.

Sickler’s flugelhorn and Porcelli’s flute play off each other on Favorite Love Affair i.k.a. Affaire d’Amour by Donald Brown (from his 1989 album The Sweetest Sounds) — I told you the selections are not obvious. Fleurine dedicates the piece to Duke Ellington and constructs Ellingtonia like “Love you madly in a sentimental mood.” Solos by Moore and Rosnes, with nice interplay between Sickler and Fleurine at the end.

As mentioned in the quote from Sickler’s liner notes above, Fleurine and Lilian Vieira wrote Portuguese lyrics to Sail Away and called it Velejar. Harrell’s original recording followed by Velejar, with Tom’s beautiful solo and interplay with Fleurine, sound wonderful back-to-back. See more below on lyrics for Sail Away. (Question: Is Velejar‘s se nâo posso encontrar você a conscious allusion to the Ao encontrar você eu conheci / O que é felicidade meu amor of Corcovado?)

The title track (Meant To Be!) is a brilliant take on Ray Bryant’s infectious Chicken & Dumplin’s. If Bryant himself recorded this, I cannot find it in his massive discography, but I’ll gladly serve up his brother in soul Bobby Timmons’s 1965 album of the same name. Sickler’s arrangement features McBride instrumentally. “And although it’s against all odds / All the witches repeat — you and me.”

Kenny Dorham recorded his composition Escapade on Joe Henderson’s 1964 LP Our Thing. Out of this comes Fleurine’s My Heart’s Escapade. For Henderson and Dorham’s unison statement of the melody Sickler substitutes an instrumental cascade (a cascading escapade, if you will), and he also plays the flugelhorn solo.

I’ve Got Just About Everything is Fleurine’s uptempo cover of fellow scat & vocalese singer Bob Dorough’s song of the same name. If I have just about everything, what do you think is the one thing I need and don’t have?

Fleurine’s When I Think of One is composed to Monk’s Think of One (again not the most obvious Monk pick, from a 1954/1956 Prestige release with Sonny Rollins, though it was the title track of a 1983 Wynton Marsalis album). Meant to Be! (the album) reminds me very much of Carmen Sings Monk, which I mentioned above, because both are vehicles equally for singing and for instrumental jazz. The horn punctuations here are a gas. Solos by Moore and Rosnes. How Fleurine’s lyrics on this Monk tune were responsible for her meeting Don Sickler — Thelonius Monk, Jr. (aka T.S. Monk) plays a role — … I’ll leave that discovery to those smart enough to buy the CD.

As mentioned, Fleurine, José Lopretti, and Lilian Vieira co-wrote Escolher with Portuguese lyrics (escolher is a verb, but the song title is translated as Choices). It is performed as a duet with Fleurine and van Ruller.

New Yorker Bobby Porcelli (b. 1937) is a veteran of exciting Afro-Cuban ensembles like those of Machito, Mongo Santamaria, and Tito Puente. Porcelli took that excitement to Europe in the early ’80s, touring as a single player hooking up with local rhythm sections and performing at festivals, and that will probably be how he knows Fleurine. You can read about Porcelli’s composition Rejuvenate and about Porcelli himself on Don Sickler’s jazzleadsheets website and hear Ralph Moore’s 1989 recording of Rejuvenate on YouTube. Rejuvenate! After all, It’s all in the mind, sings Fleurine. Porcelli is on flute for the theme and he solos on the alto sax, plus Rosnes. “Let’s go now, make a brand new start!”

I could probably not count the times I have seen Jerome Richardson’s name on recording credits. On his own 1959 album Roamin’ With Richardson, with pianist Richard Wyands, he plays Wyands’s composition Candied Sweets. Fleurine converts it into an ultimatum: Better Call Me Now. Hint: You better, because she sounds like she means business. Porcelli solos again on the alto, also McBride and Rosnes.

Through what thought process I’d love to know, Fleurine turns Curtis Fuller’s medium-tempo straight-ahead number The Court, played by Fuller, Freddie Hubbard, Walter Bishop, and Yusef Lateef on Fuller’s 1960 album Boss Of The Soul-Stream Trombone, into a ballad about love lost, One Dream Again, expressing an experience and an emotion most of us can identify with, and performed lovingly as a duet with Rosnes. And thanks to Fleurine, I got my answer! (This was via email correspondence, but she also told this story on Facebook earlier this year on the occasion of Fuller passing away.) It is a story with an interesting twist. In The Court she heard “such a yearning, such a lyrical melody” that the original tempo didn’t seem “‘fitting’ somehow.” Amazingly, in 2013 Fuller told an audience at the Bimhaus in Amsterdam that he himself originally conceived of The Court as a ballad, very much like the way Fleurine and Renee recorded it. Unfortunately, with this Amsterdam ⬌ New Amsterdam thing she was in New York at the time, but learned of this from a friend who was in attendance.

It is of course appropriate to end a vocalese album with Bird. Fleurine does that indirectly with Thad Jones’s Birdsong (Mad Thad, 1957), v.k.a. (vocally known as) High In The Sky. To appropriate a line from King Pleasure, “Charlie Parker you can come in now if you want, we’re through.”

When all is said and done, with the significant exception of Velejar there wasn’t a lot of Tom Harrell on this album, but one gets the feeling that Tom’s very presence in the studio is an inspiration to the other musicians, and anyway, as so often before on this Trip, thanks to Tom for leading me to a great place.


Helen Merrill

She was born in New York (1930) to Croatian immigrants who named her Jelena Ana Milcetic. But she is known to the world as Helen Merrill, and her eponymous debut album Helen Merrill, recorded in December 1954, is a classic. On it the equally young Clifford Brown (also born in 1930) took the jazz world to school on how to accompany a singer lyrically on the trumpet. (To round out this picture of youth, arrangements on the session were by twenty-one-year-old Quincy Jones.)

Fast forward thirty years. Helen Merrill had in turn become a big fan of Tom Harrell. “Tom is such a natural, instinctive musician,” she told journalist Ken Franckling. “There is so much depth. He plays from such a wonderfully deep place. It’s so mysterious.”

Helen Merrill Sings Jerome Kern, Cole Porter

In 1986 the Japanese record company Victor Musical Industries wanted to produce recordings from the American Songbook and they asked Merrill to do the singing (she was enormously popular in Japan, where she was called “The Sigh of New York”). Out of this project came Helen Merrill Sings Jerome Kern and Helen Merrill Sings Cole Porter, with fellow New Yorker Tom Harrell featured prominently — Harrell was to tour Japan the following year as part of the Phil Woods Quintet. (I believe there is also a Helen Merrill Sings Irving Berlin, but not with Harrell.)

The excellent arrangements on these albums were by Torrie Zito, who is also the pianist (he and Merrill were married). There are three separate instrumental settings on both albums: (A) A small string & woodwind ensemble (no brass), (B) a voice-flugelhorn-piano/bass/drums quintet, and (C) Merrill, Zito, and Harrell as a trio. In the quintet Harrell is the flugelhornist, Rufus Reid is on bass, and Billy Hart (Kern) and Ronnie Zito (Porter) on drums. This makes for a nice sequencing on Kern. The first four tracks are the (A) numbers, which are all slow ballads, In Love in Vain (lyrics by Leo Robin — since Kern generally collaborated with lyricists, I will indicate those), The Folks Who Live On The Hill (Oscar Hammerstein), Remind Me (Dorothy Fields), and I’m Old Fashioned (Johnny Mercer).

The mood changes with the quintet numbers, beginning with Nobody Else But Me (Hammerstein). Merrill fully utilizes Harrell, just as she had Clifford Brown; the flugelhorn and Merrill’s voice are equal and complementary (call it Merrill-Harrell). On Nobody Else But Me they bob and weave together, and Harrell also solos. The next track is a medley in which Harrell plays The Song Is You (Hammerstein) and then accompanies Merrill on The Way You Look Tonight (Fields). Torrie Zito’s Fender Rhodes adds a distinct color to all the numbers on (B) and (C). Tom introduces a signature tune co-written by Merrill and Zito called Music Makers. “Mr. Kern, we thank you much, for the songs we sing … Torrie Zito, Thomas Harrell, and the girls who sing”. (Music Makers was the title of another album Merrill made for a different label in this same year, with Gordon Beck, Steve Lacy, and Stéphane Grapelli.)

The trio then plays another medley, this time a ballad one. Tom and Zito play Yesterdays (Otto Harbach) and accompany Merrill on Till The Clouds Roll By (P. G. Wodehouse). Zito does a beautiful transition from one to the other. Merrill-Harrell briefly reprise Yesterdays at the end. The sound engineers do something funky with Merrill’s voice at the beginning and end of Look for the Silver Lining (B. G. De Sylva). Harrell and Zito blend perfectly on Tom’s solo. And they play a full chorus before Merrill comes in on All The Things You Are (Hammerstein) to inform us that “You are the promised kiss of spring time that makes the lonely winter seem long.”

I prefer the all-of-A then all-of-B then all-of-C sequencing on Kern of the three instrumental settings, whereas Porter alternates between them. I also prefer Billy Hart’s drumming on the former to Ronnie Zito’s on Porter. But neither is a big deal. Unlike Kern, Cole Porter wrote both the musics and the lyrics for his musicals. The four with string & woodwind ensemble are What Is This Thing Called Love, In The Still Of The Night, True Love, and Every Time We Say Goodbye. As on Kern, all are performed as slow, quiet ballads and the arrangements are excellent.

The quintet numbers are I Love You (Harrell accompanies and solos), My Heart Belongs To Daddy (featuring Rufus Reid), So In Love (the flugelhorn supplies color and gets the last note, and Torrie Zito plays acoustic piano and solos), and I Get A Kick Out Of You, another one where Merrill and Harrell blend into one, including on the snappy ending (Harrell also solos).

Naturally Merrill, Harrell, and Zito (Torrie) sound great together on You’d Be So Nice To Come Home To (Harrell solos). I Concentrate On You is a duet with Merrill and Zito on acoustic piano.


Clear Out Of This World

In the years that followed, Merrill included Tom on three albums she made for the French label Gitanes. She recorded Clear Out Of This World in 1991. She is backed by the trio of Roger Kellaway on piano (he also does all the arranging), Red Mitchell on bass (Some Of These Days is a playful Merrill-Mitchell duet), and Terry Clarke on drums. In addition, she adds Wayne Shorter on the first and last tracks, Harold Arlen & Johnny Mercer’s Out Of This World (Shorter on soprano) and the Ann Ronell classic Willow Weep For Me (Shorter on tenor). Finally, she adds Harrell on three tracks. Interaction between Harrell and Kellaway weaves its way through Michael Leonard and Herbert Martin’s I’m All Smiles. On Sigmund Romberg and Oscar Hammerstein’s When I Grow Too Old To Dream, one can easily imagine Helen entranced by Tom’s solo (as I am). Tom uses the mute on Harvey Schmidt and Tom Jones’s Soon It’s Gonna Rain. One of my listening pleasures on this album has been Roger Kellaway, whose dynamics I remember so vividly on Alfie (Sonny Rollins).


Brownie: A Homage to Clifford Brown

“The reaction of the jazz community was a kind of silent depression. No one could talk about it.”

Helen Merrill, liner notes to Brownie

June 26, 1956. As most jazz fans know, Clifford Brown died in a car crash at age 25. It took forty years after her classic December 1954 session with Brown, but Merrill finally decided she was emotionally able to handle a tribute album to “Brownie,” an idea she had conceived a few years earlier at a memorial event for Brown arranged by Max Roach and Brown’s widow LaRue. Furthermore, she jumped at her producer’s idea of including four especially appropriate trumpeters, Tom Harrell, Wallace Roney, Lew Soloff, and Roy Hargrove . Merrill and her team met and decided on the material and on who would play what. Torrie Zito transcribed some of Brown’s solos (see below) and made the ensemble arrangements. In addition to the trumpeters, they used Kenny Barron on piano, Rufus Reid on bass, and Victor Lewis on drums. The result, Brownie: Homage to Clifford Brown, is to me pretty spectacular.

It begins with lyrics Merrill wrote for Your Eyes, a ballad Brown had written for LaRue. Merrill sings the verse. Three minutes in, Harrell takes over on flugelhorn; Merrill never returns, Harrell’s solo finishes the piece. It’s Wallace Roney’s turn on Brown’s well-known composition Daahoud, which is played uptempo and as an instrumental with Roney and Barron soloing. Mel Tormé’s Born To Be Blue was one of the numbers on Helen Merrill. The song’s four 16-bar verses are divvied up as follows: (1) After Barron’s piano intro, Merrill sings the first two verses. (2) Harrell accompanies her with an obbligato part on the bridge verse. (3) Merrill sings the the fourth. (4) This is where Clifford Brown soloed on Helen Merrill. The four all-star trumpeters play Brownie’s transcribed two-chorus solo, transcribed by Zito, in unison note for note — man, that is some vocalese! (5) Merrill-Harrell reprise the bridge, and (6) as Harrell’s obbligato dribbles into the final verse (“I guess I’m luckier than some folks”), Merrill notches it up and the entire trumpet section joins in a rousing finale. Wow!

If you have guessed that the homage would include Benny Golson’s I Remember Clifford, you guessed correctly. The liner notes tell the story. With no rehearsal or definite arrangement decided, Merrill starting singing Jon Hendrick’s lyrics. Roy Hargrove joined her with an obbligato part (I’m getting this term “obbligato part” from the liner notes), and then Barron and the rhythm section joined. Hargrove laid back as Merrill finished the last verse of the lyrics, and then he plays a gorgeous solo. Merrill-Hargrove finishes it, Hargrove with the last word.

This Trip is a Quest to find a pretty song or two of Harrell’s to add to my Horn of Pretty playlist. The playlist started with Lee Morgan’s Ceora and then Brownie’s Joy Spring, one of my (and most everyone else’s) favorite Clifford Brown-Max Roach numbers. The stars align, because here, as requested by Merrill, it is performed by Harrell as an unaccompanied solo. I bet if you polled musicians for their top Harrell performances, this one would rank near the top.

The recorded legacy of Clifford Brown ends (along with Sonny Rollins Plus 4) with Clifford Brown and Max Roach At Basin Street, with the incomparable congregation of Clifford Brown, Max Roach, Sonny Rollins, Richie Powell, and George Morrow. Brown and Richie Powell died in the aforementioned car crash months later. Clifford Brown and Max Roach At Basin Street included I’ll Remember April, and it is with that recording in mind that it is included here. The liner notes on Helen’s album say “Helen and Tom’s performances are mostly spontaneous, and their rapport is fantastic. At the second chorus, the piano and drums come in.” I would like to amend that to say “Helen and Tom and Rufus’s performances are mostly spontaneous, and their rapport is fantastic.” As the notes point out, Tom switches from trumpet to flugelhorn for his solo, and Barron plays an impressive one too.

Helen Merrill began with Don’t Explain. Probably most people along with myself associate this song with its co-author Billie Holiday, for whom it was autobiographical. But the emotional impact of Merrill’s cover, on Helen Merrill and again on Brownie, is equivalent. A rubato flourish from Hargrove, pause, some quiet chords from Barron, then, accompanied only by Barron, Merrill sings the first two verses (AA). Rufus Reid’s bass and Victor Lewis’s brushes join on the bridge (B). For the next chorus, Brown’s original solo on AA is overdubbed by Lew Soloff. Merrill returns to sing the bridge and final A section, before she and Soloff on mute improvise for another minute.

Torrie Zito composed the uptempo instrumental number Brownie for the album. Soloff, Harrell, and Hargrove play the theme, Harrell (flugelhorn) and Hargrove (trumpet) each take a chorus.

You’d Be So Nice To Come Home To was an especially popular track from Helen Merrill. The following breakdown is from the liner notes. After an introduction featuring the four trumpeters, Helen sings Cole Porter’s lyrics (32-bars), Wallace Roney (8) and Barron (24) split the next 32, then all four trumpeters play Brown’s transcribed 32-bar solo. The final chorus is played by Reid (16) and Helen (16), Wallace Roney capping it off with an obbligato. Kiyoshi “Boxman” Koyama, who wrote the liner notes which were then translated from Japanese into English, adds, “An absolutely gorgeous track.” “Thumbs up,” however you say that in Japanese. (To round out the international cast, these three Merrill albums for Gitanes were produced by Jean-Philippe Allard, the director of PolyGram Jazz France.)

The homage ends with four songs of farewell. I’ll Be Seeing You is a song to pull at your heartstrings. Written by Sammy Fain and Irving Kahal in 1938, it has been a hit from Bing Crosby to Liberace to the Poni-Tails. Billie Holiday’s1944 recording was used as the final transmission sent by NASA to the Opportunity rover on Mars when its mission ended in February 2019. Here it is played by the trio of Helen, Tom, and Torrie (on a keyboard that sounds almost like a xylophone). Memories Of You (played by Brown on his album Clifford Brown with Strings) is here a Kenny Barron piano solo. Allie Wrubel and Herb Magidson’s Gone With The Wind is a Helen Merrill-Torrie Zito duet. And finally, Tom, Roy Hargrove, and Lew Soloff (the lead voice) play the familiar Largo, the second movement of Antonín Dvořák’s “New World Symphony.” As Goin’ Home, the spiritual made to the English-horn melody of the Largo by Dvořák’s pupil William Arms Fisher, this was to be played a decade later by Carla Bley and Charlie Haden and the Liberation Music Orchestra on Not In Our Name.

There are some albums which, when you finish them, you’re not sure you can ever listen to anything else.


You and the Night and the Music

Speaking of Charlie Haden … for their album You and the Night and the Music, recorded in June 1996, Merrill and Torrie Zito brought together the familiar threesome of Haden, Paul Motian, and Tom Harrell (these three had last recorded together on Harrell’s Form in 1990). Additionally, with one exception the piano work is done by the veteran Japanese-born pianist Masabumi Kikuchi. Kikuchi was born in Tokyo in 1939. He became interested in jazz while in high school and eventually studied at Berklee College of Music. By the time of this recording he had played and recorded with numerous Japanese and American jazz artists.

The exception is the medley of Victor Young songs, Beautiful Love/A Love Like This, with Torrie on (acoustic) piano in duet with Helen. And In You Came is written by Zito and Merrill and has both Kikuchi on acoustic and Zito on electric piano. Harold Arlen and Ted Koehler’s Ill Wind and Rodgers & Hart’s Funny Valentine are Merrill-Kikuchi duets. The (Howard) Dietz & (Arthur) Schwartz collaboration You and the Night and the Music and Victor Young’s Street of Dreams are Merrill and Kikuchi with the rhythm section.

The remaining tracks deploy Harrell, beginning with Victor Young’s exotic Song of Delilah from the 1949 Cecil B. DeMille movie Samson and Delilah, with words added by Jay Livingston and Ray Evans (“If you’re seeking the secret of love / Delilah knows”). A special arrangement was cooked up for this one; it has a prelude & coda — “All that’s new in love / Or old in love is in her eyes / Keeper of the flame that never dies” — played as a duet by Merrill and the glass-clear trumpet of Bob Millikan, with special echo effects provided by the sound engineer. The flugelhorn solo mid-piece though is Harrell. Motian is doing something here and on the rest of the album that I wouldn’t know how to describe, but a reviewer on Amazon says he is playing “nonstandard rhythms,” so I’ll go with that. Motian’s whatever-you-call-it and Kikuchi’s frequent vocalizing (which normally I find annoying) each lend their distinct color to the music.

Victor Youmans and Irving Caesar’s I Want To Be Happy goes back to 1925. It gets a flippant treatment here (in a positive way!) by Kikuchi (piano and grunting), Haden, and Motian. Haden slips into a walking bass for Harrell’s solo. By stark contrast, Kikuchi provides a beautiful introduction and accompaniment, sans rhythm section, on the ballad standard Young and Foolish, which Merrill milks for everything she can, and then so does Tom. Harrell plays with a mute (correct me if I’m wrong) and in an intriguingly uncharacteristic style (tell me if you disagree) on the second Zito-Merrill composition, Don’t Leave Me Alone, with its picture-perfect work from Haden and Motian. Tom’s horn introduces All of Me. Kikuchi’s distinct style really comes out in his solo here. He is followed by Harrell.

This has been a most enjoyable part of my Trip. Over the years I was familiar with the classic Helen Merrill album with Brownie and I liked anything of hers that I heard on the radio, but I didn’t own any of her records and I didn’t know much about her. In short, I was unaware of the quiet depth of her emotions. In that regard, listening to her a lot these last few weeks, I was frequently reminded of one of my favorite singers on the male side, Andy Bey. To put it crudely, Andy and Helen strip themselves naked and say, All or Nothing at All. It is not surprising then that the chemistry between Tom and Helen runs deep, just as it did between Helen and Brownie.


Point of Departure is San Francisco-born Madeline Eastman’s 1990 debut album, recorded in San Francisco for the San Francisco label Mad-Kat that she co-founded with San Francisco-based singer Kitty Margolis. On it she uses the California-based musicians Mike Wofford (piano) and Vince Lateano (drums). She also summoned back home the New Yorkers Rufus Reid and Tom Harrell (see the CD cover). I can’t provide much more of a backstory because, except for a nice tribute from her fellow singer Mark Murphy (“cool but intense is our Mad”), the liner notes in the only copy of the CD I could find are in Japanese.

Based on this, my introduction to Madeline Eastman, I would consider her a club singer, that is, someone I would especially like to hear and see in a jazz club setting on a night out on the town. The album — let’s say the set, with my first glass of scotch in hand — begins with Kisses (originally recorded by Sergio Mendes in 1984), the first of two songs co-composed by the Brazilians Ivan Lins & Vitor Martins. The other is The Island (performed here by Lins). I first learned about Lins when comparing notes on Brazilian music with a Berklee friend of my son’s, Dawaun Parker (who is one of the most naturally gifted musicians I have ever known). Dawaun said what Lins does with harmony is “sick” (for those who don’t know American slang, “sick” is good!). Mark Murphy, who speaks his mind, says “[Mad] even makes sense of the silly English lyrics [by Alan and Marilyn Bergman] to two gorgeous Ivan Lins songs.” Maybe. I don’t know, I’m feeling relaxed and not in a mood to be critical. One nice thing about both numbers are the solos from a very good trumpet player named Tom Harrell.

Another Brazilian song I’m delighted to find on the album is Little Boat, which is an English version of Roberto Menescal’s O Barquinho. When I wrote about Harrell’s Sail Away album, I mentioned that Sail Away (the song) invoked for me in imagery and feel the Brazilian singer Maysa’s version of O Barquinho, so it is a nice surprise for me to find Harrell doing it (also see below). The introduction, the scatting after the verse, and the ending are written as unison parts for Eastman and Harrell; the instrumental solo is from Wofford, but Harrell plays a short coda.

“Mad” shows us what she can do with a ballad on You Are My Sunshine, which also has a nice Wofford solo, and on No More. Tom is out on these two. Inner Urge shows us what she can do with vocalese, as she sings words she wrote to this straight-ahead Joe Henderson composition. Eastman and Harrell (with mute) also have scripted unison parts on this one. Harrell, Wofford, and Reid solo. What a fun song Kern & Hammerstein’s Nobody Else But Me is (“I’m not very bright, he’s not very bright”)! Ha + Merrill (see above) and Ha + Eastman are equally delightful on this one, and in fact in my Apple library there follows versions by Messrs Getz & Burton and Bennett & Charlap — not too shabby!

Thanks to some overdubbing and clever engineering, Eastman becomes an entire a capella choir in her introduction to Bobby Hutcherson’s gently swinging Little B’s Poem. Nice Harrell solo. Somewhat like Fleurine’s Meant To Be!, the selections here are well curated and not obvious. Harry Warren and Al Dubin’s I Only Have Eyes For You was written for the film Dames in 1934. It became my all-time favorite doo-wop song, the haunting 1959 version by The Flamingos. Eastman, Harrell, and the band swing it, and after Reid’s solo they even serve up some Scrapple From The Apple. But I have to admit I’m uncomfortable with anyone messing around with The Flamingos.

Eastman closes the album with her cover of Calling You, the theme from the 1989 film Bagdad Cafe sung by Jevetta Steele. Eastman does it as a duet with the album’s co-producer Paul Potyen on piano. If I wink at my waitress and order another drink, perhaps she will let me stay for the next set!


I can divide my life into thirds: from Chicago to New York to Philadelphia. Spider Saloff did the exact opposite and settled in Chicago in 1994, about thirty years after I left. She is a jazz vocalist (a designation she prefers over “cabaret singer,” though there are reasons for the latter) who specializes in the American Song Book and in particular as an interpreter of George Gershwin. She is well known in the Chicago jazz ecosystem for her performances at venues like the Green Mill, the Gold Star Sardine Bar, and the Jazz Showcase, but she has also performed in New York and and abroad. Sextet is the second of a series of albums she has done over the years for the Chicago-based Kopaesthetics label.

For Sextet, which she recorded in New York, Saloff brought together five stellar musicians, viz., Harrell, saxophonist Nick Brignola, pianist John Colianni, and a rhythm section very familiar to anyone following me on this Trip, Ray Drummond on bass and Klaus Suonsaari on drums. I like that she considers her voice an instrument and calls it a sextet. When the band introduces Miss Brown To You, you know this is going to be A Swingin’ Affair. I immediately think of Anita O’Day, one of Saloff’s acknowledged influences. First, there are those gloves. Second, there was O’Day’s iconic performance at Newport about another female named Brown. “Lovable little Miss Brown to you is Baby to me”: Go Colianni, who is credited with many of the arrangements for the album and who as it happened was to record with Anita O’Day years later, and go Brignola (soprano).

On this Trip we have heard flutist Cheryl Pyle on several of Harrell’s Contemporary and Chesky sides. Pyle is also a lyricist, and she wrote the lovely lyrics to Sail Away sung here by Spider, track title Out To Sea (Sail Away). “I let your love so calm, take hold and draw me out to sea / the endless possibility”: Go Tom (who also did the arrangement). Percussionist Bobby Sanabria is added to this track and one other. On Sail Away lyrics, see further below.

Brignola and Harrell interweave the theme to I Want To Be Happy. Saloff comes on, accompanied by Harrell on mute. Go Tom (without mute), Nick (tenor), Spider (scat). Colianni and Saloff co-wrote the ballad Alone In The Dark. Harrell and Brignola (baritone) solo. Colianni’s arrangement helps make David Mann and Redd Evans’s No Moon At All (“Even lightnin’ bugs have dimmed their lights”) a success (after all, should we want atmosphere for inspiration, dear, one kiss will make it clear). Drummond and Suonsaari get some play, and Drummond and Saloff arranged Easy Street, which they perform as a duet.

Harrell arranged one of my favorite Harold Arlen-Johnny Mercer songs, Out Of This World. This is the other track with Bobby Sanabria on percussion. Brignola on baritone is the featured soloist, along with Spider’s scatting.

I was not familiar with Marvin Fisher and Jack Segal’s I Keep Going Back To Joe’s, though I see it was recorded by Nat King Cole in 1963. It is the type of lyric that, on the one hand, is supposed to be sad, but whose too-clever trope tips the scale for me in favor of amusement (sort of like Nancy Wilson’s Guess Who I Saw Today). Brignola and Harrell have a brief accompanying role. Suonsaari wrote and arranged the spiritual-like Serenity. On it Colianni plays organ/keyboard. Brignola solos again on bari (Harrell is out). Saloff and Harrell co-arranged Cole Porter’s Everytime We Say Goodbye, which they perform as a duet.

I should never have left Chicago!


Sail Away — A Cornucopia of Lyrics

I mentioned above that the words Spider Saloff sings to Sail Away are by Cheryl Pyle. Not surprisingly, this pretty composition has inspired several lyrics. They are all rich in the maritime imagery inspired by Sail but surprisingly (or not) different as to who sails Away. All a bit elusive, evocative, and mysterious like the sea. All, unsurprisingly, about love.

  • I have several times mentioned that Harrell’s original recording of Sail Away reminded me of the Brazilian singer Maysa’s O Barquinho (The Little Boat), so ever since becoming familiar with Tom’s recording I have involuntarily but not unwillingly associated it with O Barquinho‘s sweet and simple lyrics. The little boat slides out on a summer day under the sun onto the blue sea, love is made — Dia de luz, festa de sol /Um barquinho a deslizar no macio azul do mar / Tudo é verão, amor se faz. The little boat returns, desire to sing — Volta do mar, desmaia o sol / E o barquinho a deslizar e a vontade de cantar. The little boat sails, the evening falls, O barquinho vai, a tardinha cai, the little boat sails, the evening falls, O barquinho vai, a tardinha cai.
  • We saw above that Fleurine and Lilian Vieira wrote Portuguese lyrics to Sail Away and called it Velejar. In Velejar, the singer is Sailing Away to find a new world for herself, a new her … just to prove that sadness (aha!) strengthens (Pra mostrar / que a tristeza fortalece). But in the final verse she asks what are these sails for if they cannot sail me back to you (mas pra que as velas / se não posso encontrar / você …).
  • In 1994 singer and lyricist (and saxophonist!) Ann Malcolm recorded her lyrics, track title Before Dawn, on her album Incident’ly . Incident’ly, incidentally, is a fine album with a tight group that includes Kenny Barron and our Harrell friend Ray Drummond. Like Fleurine’s Meant To Be! (which it preceded), it was recorded in the Rudy Van Gelder Studio and with the close involvement of Maureen and Don Sickler. Years later Harrell was to make a rather different arrangement of Before Dawn for Malcolm on her album The Crystal Paperweight, an album, the gods willing, we will get to visit later on this Trip. Before dawn, sadly, it is the singer’s lover that stealthily sails away.
  • Unfortunately Spider Saloff’s version of Cheryl Pyle’s Out To Sea is not on YouTube, but several versions by Sheila Jordan are, here for example. In Pyle’s lyrics, the singer and the lover sail away together with “endless possibility.”
  • Canadian singer Jaclyn Guillou has written yet another set of fine lyrics, in which the lovers sail away to either a literal or a metaphorical island to heal their damaged hearts and renew their love.

Ha + Ensemble

The organizing principle here has been to hear how Ha sounded in combination with particular instruments (including the voice), as determined by the instrument of the album leader. I am well aware that that can sometimes be misleading. Sometimes it just doesn’t work at all. Bobby Vince Paunetto was a vibraphonist, but when Paunetto records with Harrell, it is really with his Commit To Memory band. Joe Roccisano was an alto saxophonist, but his album with Harrell is with his Joe Roccisano Orchestra. Fernando Tarrés is a guitarist, but his album with Harrell revolves around his compositions for his Arida Conta Group.

Bobby Vince Paunetto — New York Latin

“Bobby Vince” was from the Bronx (born 1944). He grew up listening to Cal Tjader, Vince Guaraldi, Mongo Santamaria and the like and, inspired by Tjader and Milt Jackson, he took up the vibes at 17 (1961). In 1962 he composed his first piece of music, Nuance, dedicated to the MJQ, and in that same year Cal Tjader, whom Paunetto had befriended, was so impressed that he wrote and recorded Paunetto’s Point (In A Latin Bag). After a stint in the army, Paunetto majored in composition and graduated from Berklee College of Music in 1973.

“A potentially significant vibraphonist and composer …”

Scott Yanow, Afro-Cuban Jazz, 2000 (p. 84)

In 1974 Paunetto founded the Pathfinder Recording Company and recorded Paunetto’s Point, which won a Grammy nomination for Best Latin Recording (the winner was Eddie Palmieri). He followed this up with Commit to Memory in 1976. In 1998 a California outfit named Tonga Productions produced a high-quality 2-CD reissue of these two albums. The music is exciting (an adjective I draw on a lot when it comes to Latin music). The albums have sophisticated compositions and arrangements* and great musicians and soloists. One of these is trumpeter Tom Harrell. They also have the brothers Gonzalez, Jerry on percussion and Andy on acoustic bass, which answers a question I posed when writing about Harrell’s early years (file this also under Old Business), whether the Manhattanite Harrell had ever encountered the Bronxman Gonzalez (and the Fort Apache Band). I should have figured the answer was yes.

* Marty Sheller (liner notes from the reissue): “[Paunetto] writes in and around the clave, with subtle changes from one groove to another. You’ll hear typical Latin rhythms, funk rock-jazz/mozambique patterns under ‘minor blues’ settings, jazz-mambos, jazz ballads, Middle Eastern-derived melodies found in Osiris, or Gypsy-derived Flamenco/Jazz work found in Spanish Maiden, and straight-ahead jazz pieces.” One interesting detail about the arrangements is the use of strings, for example, a string quartet accompaniment to certain solos such as Harrell’s on In Time’s Time.

Of course Harrell is a terrific ensemble player (this recording is shortly after his stints with Stan Kenton, Woody Herman, and Azteca) and he can be heard in that capacity. In addition, on Paunetto’s Point, Harrell solos on Brother Will (Paunetto’s composition dedicated to his late brother), In Time’s Time (if you want to know why Harrell was welcomed as a hermano by the Latin soul brothers, listen to the opening of his solo here), and Ed Byrne’s Fenway Funk. Byrne is the band’s trombonist, and Byrne’s bio says Fenway Funk was nominated for a Grammy. (Byrne was rooted in Boston. He taught at Berklee and got a Doctorate in music from the New England Conservatory of Music. Paunetto’s Point was recorded October 28, 1974, i.e., World Series month. That year the Red Sox finished third well behind the Yankees and Baltimore in the American League East, hence, perhaps, the funk?)

On Commit to Memory, Harrell solos on Little Rico’s Theme (his solo on flugelhorn ends the piece, and the entire piece has a very interesting arrangement), Delta (composed and arranged by Orpheous Gaitanopoulos), and Good Bucks.

So why did Scott Yanow describe Paunetto as a “potentially significant vibraphonist and composer”? Tragically, in 1978 Paunetto was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. This more or less ended his musical career, though he lived until 2010. While in a few years he was no longer able to play the vibraphone, he did continue to compose, and at the end of the century he did manage to produce a couple albums of original material, including one in 1999 with Harrell which hopefully we will get to on this Trip.


Fernando Tarrés — Argentinian Latin

The wide diversity of jazz with the label “Latin” music could not be more dramatically illustrated than by a comparison of Bronx-born Bobby Paunetto and Córdoba (Argentina)-born Fernando Tarrés.

In his teens Tarrés (b. 1967) studied guitar with the master guitarist Francisco Barroso and composition at the National University of Córdoba and with the Argentinian composer Carlos Franzetti (whose many credits include the score to the 1992 film The Mambo Kings). In 1989 he put together his first Arida Conta Group and recorded his first album (Tierra Indómito) on an Argentinian label. In 1990 he moved to New York to study composition first at Berklee (a point of intersection, though separated by a generation, with Bobby Paunetto) and then at the Manhattan School of Music. He remained in New York and composed and arranged for a multitude of mostly Latin musicians and bandleaders before returning to Argentina in 2000.

During that decade in New York he and his Arida Conta Group recorded two albums for Muse Records featuring his own compositions, On The Edges of the White (1992) and Secret Rhythms (1994). Francisco Barroso, Carlos Franzetti, Fernando Tarrés, and the one Argentinian composer and arranger I am familiar with, Guillermo Klein — I would characterize their music with one word: eclectic. Or with two words: highly eclectic. (Actually, I mustn’t forget Gato Barbieri!) Tarrés’s own characterization is embedded in his “On the Edges of the White” title, which, he explains, means dancing on the edges, style- and genre-wise, around the white, which in Spanish means something in the middle.

The Arida Conta Group is an eight- or nine-member touring ensemble, supplemented on these recording sessions however by other musicians. The composition of the ensemble is mostly different on the two albums. The pianist on White, for example, is Danilo Pérez, on Rhythms David Kikoski; the saxophonist on the former Javier Girotto, on the latter Donny McCaslin; the trumpeter & flugelhornist on the former Diego Urcola, on the latter Tom Harrell.

From the opening rhythm (it is, the liner notes explain, a carnavalito, a particular Argentinian rhythm structure) and instrumentation (the very to me Andean sounding alto flute, for example) of Markari, the first track on White, I am hooked. The second track is another Argentinian rhythm, a chacarera, with indeed “edgy” work from Danilo Pérez (who had played on Harrell’s Form album four years earlier) … “This is a composer’s album,” the liner notes conclude. As is Secret Rhythms, which I must go to now, as that is the album with Harrell.

The Arida Conta Group for Secret Rhythms consists of Tarrés on guitar, David Kikoski on piano, Fernando Huergo on electric bass, Alex Deutsch on drums (Deutsch was the drummer on Wolfgang Muthspiel’s Black & Blue album two years earlier), Mary Wooten on cello, Danny McCaslin on soprano and tenor sax, Anders Bostrom on G-scale (alto) and C-scale flutes, and Juan Cruz Urquiza on trumpet & flugelhorn. They are supplemented by Harrell, Santi Debriano on acoustic bass, Richard Sosinsky on doublebass, Joy Plaisted on harp, and by the Sirius String Quartet. Because there are two trumpeter/flugelhornists, I can only distinguish them in ensemble passages based on the information in Don Hillegas’s liner notes, for example, that it is Urquiza “responding” to Danny McCaslin’s tenor solo on the opening track (Southern Anger).

Native Spirit begins with a lengthy intro by Kikoski’s piano … beyond this point, it would be over my head to try to describe the compositions, so I will rely on Hillegas’s notes. Native Spirits is in the 6/8 rhythm of a chacarena. It goes through several transformations; it is “open free jazz that owes as much to western classical composition (Ravel and Bartok come to mind) as it does to the indigenous music of his native Argentina.”

Viene Clareando is Argentinian poet Atahaulpa Yupanqui’s tale of a man forced to leave his native land forever with the rising of the sun (Vidita, ya me voy / De los pagos del Tucumán. / En la Aconquija viene clareando, / Vidita, / Nunca te he de olvidar — though according to the comments in this version, Yupanqui himself only ever performed it instrumentally). It is “fused with loneliness, longing, and serene isolated beauty through Tom Harrell’s exquisite solo.” It is reminiscent for me of Tom Jobim’s Matita Perê. I like this entire album, but for Harrell fans his work here alone is worth the price of the album.

“Bostrom’s flute is the unifying element of Southern Adventure, a composition that cascades through tempo change upon tempo change, creating a panorama of South American post-fusion openness that, perhaps, echoes the liberty so recently encompassing the continent.” Food for thought.

Colours of a Dirty Sky is a ballad in the zamba tradition. This is a good one for exploring Tarrés’s guitar work. “The Lines Of Your Smile has a West Coast cool jazz feel as this cueca liltingly skips along in 3/4 time.” Carnavalito, chacarera, zamba, cueca: I am getting a real education here!

Little Carnival (El Humahuaqueno) is Tarrés’s arrangement of Edmundo Zacdivar’s Argentinean standard (Humahuaca is a small town in the foothills of the Andes — see The Last Image From Humahuaca from the On The Edge Of White album). It “not only pays homage to [Tarrés’s] native land’s traditional carnavalito music, but also explores Brasilian baiao with a dash of Afro-Cuban thrown in via Kikoski’s percussive piano lines.” “Alex Deutsch’s tasty drumming throughout sets the pace for this candomble procession .”

“The 20th century classicism of Villa-Lobos is echoed throughout Fernando’s hauntingly beautiful ballad Everness. From the first notes of his graceful, pure guitar introduction through Tom Harrell’s poignant solo … The contrapuntal polyphonic texture achieved by the entire Arida Conta Group … .”

“Oscar Espinoza’s La Arenosa maintains its 3/4 cueca time but is totally reconstructed in Fernando’s dynamic arrangement. Flavors of both Monk and Mingus … while McCaslin’s volcanic sax solo erupts as one of the album’s highlights!”

Dave’s Mood finds the polytonality of Kikoski and Harrell’s duet restating themes and rhythms embraced throughout the entire album; …” This track validates the album cover’s banner “Featuring Tom Harrell.”

Harrell was a musician’s musician in the 70s and continued to be in the 80s and 90s.


Joe Roccisano — Big Bands

Joe Roccisano was born in 1937 in Springfield, Massachusetts, also the birthplace of one of Roccisano’s biggest fans, Phil Woods. Roccisano got a bachelor’s degree in music education from the State University of New York and immediately went on to play, compose, and arrange for the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra, Don Ellis, Ray Charles, Louie Bellson, Bill Holman, Lew Tabackin & Toshiko Akiyoshi, and a slew of other big bands, based first in Los Angeles and since 1985 in New York City. Around 1976 in L.A. he formed his own band called Rocbop, but they were never recorded. That only changed in the 1990s.

As Roccisano recounts in his liner notes to The Shape I’m In, he was finally persuaded to make a tape (I believe in 1992). This tape was subsequently presented to Joe Fields of Muse Records (the label for Donald Brown’s People Music and for the two Fernando Tarrés records — see above), and Fields decided to put it out (using the name Joe Roccisano Orchestra) on Landmark, Orrin Keepnews’s label freshly acquired by Muse. Roccisano made one more album for Landmark, Leave Behind Your Mind, in 1995 . He dropped dead of a heart attack at the 42nd Street subway station in 1997.

The 16-piece band for The Shape I’m In includes Roccisano as one of two alto saxophonists, along with Lou Marini, and notably Bill Charlap on piano. It actually has three trumpeter/flugelhornists, Harrell, Bob Burridge, and the lead trumpeter, Bob Millikan. “Lead” refers to the written parts, because Harrell gets all the solo honors. Nine of the eleven compositions are Roccisano originals. The two notable exceptions are the title track by Robbie Robertson (The Band) and Blue Lou by Donald Fagen (Steely Dan). The compositions and arrangements are on an interesting spectrum of traditional and modern; generally speaking I would call them post-swing vehicles for traditional big band hard blowing.

Borderland was an early Roccisano composition that had been performed by the Woody Herman Band at Monterey. It exhibits “why Tom is considered a giant in his profession.” Morning Glory’s Story features trombonist Jim Pugh. (The title of course is the answer, as it were, to the 1938 oft-recorded blues What’s Your Story Morning Glory.) Prism, Roccisano explains, was written in the style of the 12-tone technique, without a formal harmonic structure and with the solo sections freely ad-libbed. (Roccisano seems like someone who could do something like this without coming off as academic or pretentious.) “Tom Harrell turns in another great solo on trumpet,” he says, but “the star of the show is Bill Charlap. His solo work is one of the best examples of free improvisation I’ve ever heard.” I think anyone listening to this would have to agree. One notable novelty of this piece is that in some of the sections Roccisano plays a Yamaha WX11 electric woodwind.

“Joe Roccisano’s skills as an arranger and composer display adventurous imagination and originality. A prime example being the terrific job he did on my song ‘The Shape I’m In’. Joe’s writing will most assuredly set a precedent for great jazz in the 90’s.”

Robbie Robertson, liner notes

I love it! From 12-tone technique to The Band! And of course I am led to go back and listen to the original — they had a SOUND, as Roccisano says. “Tom Harrell delivers a beautiful muted trumpet solo which reflects the mood of the piece.”

Don’t Stop Now has great solo work from Tim Ries on tenor sax. Roccisano also calls attention to Charlap and the rhythm section (Terry Clarke on drums and Scott Lee on acoustic bass — the album also has Paul Adamy on electric bass) and to lead trumpeter Bob Millikan on the closing ensemble passages. Louie Bellson recorded this piece and played it live on the Tonight Show with their trumpeter Doc Severinsen.

Donald Fagen of Steely Dan was a jazz fan and sometime composer, and we have already encountered him on this Trip: He wrote the liner notes for the Phil Woods album Evolution. Fagen wrote Blue Lou for the chilling 1992 film Glengarry Glen Ross, and Fagen gave the score to Roccisano and allowed him to premiere it on this album. (Roccisano’s followup album for Landmark, Leave Your Mind Behind, has some more Fagen compositions.) The performance features the passionate work of alto saxophonist Lou Marini. This track as well as another from the Joe Roccisano Orchestra, Tear Filled Skies, are on the movie Soundtrack album, which is a mix of original music from the movie but mostly jazz numbers “inspired by” the movie.

A New Beginning features the tenor saxophone of Ken Hitchcock and was, Roccisano notes, a “first take.” Synthesis in turn features the entire ensemble and Tim Ries’s tenor sax playing off it. Isabel gives Roccisano the chance to do what he says he most likes doing on the alto, playing ballads. Isabel: “Perhaps she’s a composite of some of the women I’ve known or the woman I hope to meet some day.” Phil Woods, in a 2010 interview with Marty Nau for the Smithsonian Jazz Oral History Program: “We just lost Joe not too long ago, and then Joe Roccisano died at the 42th Street subway station going on a he had [sic] a band called Rock Bop [sic] and in New York they used to work at the Blue Note every Sunday afternoon and he dropped, he always had a little problem with his heart, man. And he had just fallen in love, was just going to get married and died at the 42nd Street subway station, it was so, just broke everybody’s heart. Bill Charlap had to go identify the body and all. It was very sad. It ain’t all fun, you know, and it ain’t all fair either. But a great alto player, though. I want to make sure people remember him.”

“[Piece of the Pie] is a fun piece that we enjoy playing. It’s of the foot-tapping variety and loosens things up. Tom Harrell plays an incredible solo. In fact, Bud Burridge, one of our trumpet players, brought in a transcription of it a few days later. It reads like a composition in and of itself. I plan to orchestrate it and incorporate it in the original arrangement.”

In his comments on Earth Day Roccisano says what I kind of suspected listening through this album the first time, namely, the influence his couple years with Don Ellis in the 60s had on his composing. Among other things, the piece is in 19/8 (believe it or not, I can actually count it!). It opens with Roccisano playing the WX11 again and then “a haunting Tom Harrell flugelhorn solo.” And it goes on from there. There was a reason for the title “Earth Day”: “[It] was written as a loving tribute to our Planet. Too many of its passengers are disrespectful, selfish and unkind toward it, and in turn, toward each other. For those who care, and for future generations, we must do what we can to stop the madness.” Prophetic.


What have I been listening to? To remind myself and marvel at the amazingly wide diversity of settings in which Harrell plays, always excellently, I have stepped back and made a three-piece playlist: In Time’s Time by Bobby Paunetto, Viene Clareando from the Fernando Tarrés Secret Rhythms album, and Piece of the Pie by Joe Roccisano. Incredible.

From the period I set out to visit, ~1990-1995, there remains a handful of CDs which I suppose I could also have classified as Ha + Ensemble, but have opted for Ha + Old Friends instead. Technically, I am stealing two of these from the next period I intend to visit, as they were recorded in the first half of 1996.

Ha + Old Friends

George Robert

“Old” in this case isn’t exactly old. The last studio recording of the George Robert-Tom Harrell Quintet was Lonely Eyes (previously visited along with other GR-TH material), recorded over two sessions in April of 1988 and April of 1989. But, as evidenced by this live performance September 24 & 25 1992 at the Jazzclub Rheinfelden in Switzerland, they continued to tour for a few years more.

“The evolution of the George Robert-Tom Harrell Quintet symbolizes a development that may well be the most important in the entire history of jazz as it has progressed over the years — namely, the process of internationalization.”

Leonard Feather, liner notes

The internationalization Feather speaks of is certainly something I have learned a lot about on this Trip. Harrell-land is centered in New York, the greatest jazz ecosystem, the United Nations of jazz, a magnet for many players from abroad, most of whom eventually return as established stars to their home ecosystems. Two of these truly outstanding non-American jazz musicians that have become particular favorites of mine are George Robert and Dado Moroni. This live performance in Robert’s home territory of Switzerland confirms that. The rhythm section in this manifestation of the Quintet is American, Reggie Johnson on bass — an example of the opposite phenomenon, the emigration of American jazz artists to Europe, in Johnson’s case since the mid-80s — and Byron Landham on drums. Seven numbers were selected for the album, two from Harrell, four by Robert, and Rodgers Grant’s Morning Star.

The album opens with Harrell’s composition Streets, appearing here for the first time on records. Harrell and Robert harmonize the theme, and as I reported with respect to their previous output, the chemistry between them just sounds especially warm to me. Streets is a laid-back piece, which is also Feather’s characterization of Harrell’s solo. Robert is more extrovert, “displaying the clean, clear sound that has long been his forte.” Moroni and Johnson also solo. And it’s always good to hear an appreciative audience.

Softly, the first Robert composition, is a medium Latin piece, also somewhat laid-back and also with Robert and Harrell (on flugelhorn) harmonizing its theme. (The sheet music for the four Robert compositions can all be found in the 2003 collection Music of George Robert published by Advance Music.) Solos from Harrell, Moroni, and Robert.

Robert says he first heard pianist Rodgers Grant’s Morning Star on Stan Getz’s 1977 Live at Montmartre album, and then it turned out Robert’s bassist Reggie Johnson had recorded it with Frank Wess and Johnny Coles in 1983. This is an intriguing, medium-swing composition that has grown on me with repeated listening (both to Getz and to GR-TH). At first it seemed like a fairly simple melody and structure, but as I tried to count it and to hum it, I realized there is some concealed complexity. Studying the lead sheet helps some. In the GR-TH version Moroni solos first, followed by Harrell, Robert, and Johnson.

There is no mystery to Robert’s Cape Verde, though. From its title and from listening to it, it is obviously Horace Silver-inspired (Silver’s father was from the Cape Verdean Islands). As Feather notes, Robert’s (opening) solo is particularly emotional. Harrell and Moroni follow. Bryon Landham gets to stretch out at the end.

Robert’s Missing You, introduced by Robert and Moroni, is dedicated by Robert to his wife Joan. (Harrell, who plays the bridge, had only married Angela three months ago!) Next is … get ready for it … Sail Away. The album closes with Robert’s Fast Lane. Having toured a lot in Germany, he explains in The Music of George Robert, he came to love his long stretches on the Autobahn! The structure is a little complicated when you study it, but not so much just listening to it. Consistent with the title, it is marked fast swing in cut time. After a 4-bar intro there is a 15-bar main theme, the 12th bar marked Latin and the closing two bars Swing. This is repeated, though with only a single closing bar (also marked Swing). There follows a second 15-bar section, marked Latin. There is a break, and then “to solos – blues in F,” and indeed the solos are played as 12-bar (i.e., blues) choruses. Harrell gets to drive first, Robert takes the next stretch and then is spelled by Moroni. Landham caps it off with a tour-de-force. Repeat theme, coda, audience cheers, I cheer.


Lee Konitz

In 1992 Japanese jazz fan Tetsuo Hara started the Japanese label Venus Records, with the help of American jazz promoter Todd Barkan. Among the artists Hara signed up was Lee Konitz. Konitz & The Brazilian Band made back-to-back albums in 1995 and 1996 for Venus (recorded in New York), Brazilian Rhapsody and Brazilian Serenade. Harrell, who as a young man in California was encouraged by Konitz and who later played on Konitz’s 1979 Yes, Yes Nonet album, is on the latter.

Two things about Venus. One, the name of course is that of the Greco-Roman goddess. And while the cover art on the Konitz CDs captures the natural tropical beauty associated with Brazil, the label has incurred some controversy for its frequent use of female nudity à la classical sculpture. Silly. Number two, unfortunately, is that the liner notes are in Japanese only. As Hara concedes, Venus’s penetration into the U.S. and European market has not been sufficient to warrant English-language versions.

On the other hand, what needs to be said about musicians of this stature and appropriateness (I am talking about Serenade now) playing the familiar melodies of, mostly, Antonio Carlos Jobim? (If I haven’t said it before, Jobim is my all-time favorite composer.) Those musicians are, besides Konitz and Harrell, Romero Lubambo guitar, David Kikoski piano — I first heard Kikoski on Fernando Tarrés’s Secret Rhythms (see above), and he is brilliant –, Dave Finck bass, Duduka Da Fonseca drums, and Waltinho Anastacio percussion. (The personnel on Brazilian Rhapsody is the same except that Peggy Stern is on piano. For the full experience, listen to both albums!)

Lubambo’s guitar first, then a well-timed percussive touch from Da Fonseca, then Kikoski’s electric piano and Finck’s bass establish that Brazilian feel on Jobim’s Favela (O Morro Não Tem Vez). Konitz plays the main melody, Harrell repeats. Then Konitz and Harrell together. The simple construction of the solos (Konitz, Harrell, Kikoski, and Finck) is notable. The album’s groove is established. Lubambo’s guitar also introduces Jobim’s Once I Loved (O Amor Em Paz), whose pretty melody is played by Konitz. Harrell’s repeat of the melody melds into his solo, which is followed by Konitz and Lubambo and briefly by Finck. Of course on both these numbers Vinicius de Moraes’s lyrics float silently audibly in the background.

Where do we know this next one from, we ask ourselves. Of course it’s Recado Bossa Nova (by Djalma Ferreira) from the 1965 Hank Mobley album with Lee Morgan and with Billy Higgins knocking out that Bossa beat. On the other hand, we don’t recognize this next one, and that is because it’s a Harrell original recorded here for the first time, called September. It’s a simple melody in AABA as befits the simplicity of these albums. Konitz plays AA, Harrell joins at the bridge. Konitz, Harrell (on mute), Kikoski (on acoustic piano), and Lubambo each play a one-chorus solo. Konitz plays AAB in the restatement of the theme, joined by Harrell, still on mute, for the final A and a coda.

Harrell is out on the next three Jobim songs, Dindi, Wave (Vou Te Contar), which features Kikoski, and Meditation (Meditacáo), which features Lubambo. The album closes with its title track (Brazilian Serenade), a Konitz original, another simple AABA structure, though the final A is in 12 bars. Konitz gets first solo honors, followed by Lubambo, Harrell, Kikoski, Finck, and some exchanges with Da Fonseca.


Woody Herman

Woody Herman passed away in October 1987. The Woody Herman Orchestra lived on under the leadership of its long-time star woodwindist Frank Tiberi, as personally requested by Herman. In June 1996 the Orchestra, joined by some former Woodchoppers such as Harrell, gathered in a New York studio to record a 60th-year tribute to “The Band That Plays The Blues,” as Herman’s first congregation was originally billed in 1936.

Looking back on it, I’m afraid I gave rather short shrift to the time Tom Harrell spent in Woody Herman’s (Young) Thundering Herd c. 1970, other than to note Harrell’s featured solo on Johnny Mandel’s achingly beautiful A Time for Love (from the October 1970 album Woody). Looking at KG, I see a number of Woody Herman recordings Harrell was on.

For my purposes, there really is only one thing to report about this tribute album, which is an arrangement of Sail Away done by one of the Orchestra’s trombonists, Paul McKee, featuring Harrell. It’s a nice touch that, twenty six years after Woody, the Herd should be playing a composition by Harrell. I was a bit apprehensive about a big band arrangement of Sail Away, but I really like it. In fact I like the entire album. Aside from Four Brothers — the song, the four tenor saxophonists in question, the legend — I was never too knowledgeable about Herman and his successive Herds. I was not aware, for example, of Herman’s close association with Laura, and I really like the arrangement on this album. As so often on this Trip, I have enjoyed taking a side excursion to at least partially remedy my ignorance. I learned a lot watching Graham Carter’s 2013 documentary, Blue Flame: Portrait of a Jazz Legend (Joe Lovano is one of the musicians interviewed).

<Continue with ‘recognition’ — Hallelujah! — in the next post.>

Published by Randy Gibbons

I am retired. I have several strong interests, in particular classical studies (Greek and Latin); a lifelong passion for music, especially jazz; and more recently, dabbling in philosophy. For more information about me, click on About Me.

Leave a comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: