Saturday, May 16, 2009

Tom Harrell @ The Village Vanguard

It is a strange time for music. The industry is slowly adapting to new technologies, and that involves a lot of pain. I understand that classical music is in crisis. A shrinking audience means fewer contracts for upcoming stars. I don't know what the situation is for upcoming jazz artists. I do know that more music is available to jazz fans than has ever been available before.

Case in point:
NPR Music: Live at the Village Vanguard. The Village Vanguard is the undisputed center of live jazz, and it is a survivor. A considerable number of essential recordings were made there: John Coltrane, Bill Evans, Sonny Rollins, each produced immortal music at that venue. I have never been to New York, so I can only dream. But this club is surely the geographic center of jazz.

The NPR show features a lot of big name jazz artists appearing recently at the VV. Terence Blanchard (I keep hoping, against all indications, for a family connection), the Cedar Walton Trio, Ravi Coltrane, Chris Potter, and Kenny Baron all have concerts that you can listen to at the above link. Oh, and Paul Motian, Bill Frisell and Joe Lovano also have a VV concert you can hear at that site. I really should have mentioned that when I posted on Lovano and Motian.
But tonight I am listening to the Tom Harrell Quintet, live at the VV on April 8th of this year. It is a delicious session. Here is NPR's description of the band backing Harrell's trumpet:
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.
This is a group to keep one's eyes on. Especially Escoffery and Grissett. The dialogue between the three is rich beyond all expectation. It is available at eMusic.

Oh, and if you like this post, please leave a comment. I get lonely.


  1. I have seen Tom Harrell play live on 2 occasions. The first time at the University of CT, and second time at the Jazz Standard in NYC with Alto sax player Charles McPherson (an amazing set). If you never have seen Harrell, it can be a startling experience. Harrell suffers from a severe case of schizophrenia. As soon as he stops playing he goes into this catatonic like state. His arms drop to his side and he stands motionless, except if you look closely his lips are moving as he is talking to himself. Sometimes he would walk to the back of the stage and stand in the corner facing the wall till he has to come back and play. Once he begins playing he appears fine again. CBS did a segment on him a few years ago. The youtube appears here.

  2. Wow, what a great story! I did read somewhere about Harrell's condition. That he can play such compelling music while being otherwise incapacitated is very interesting. It reminds one of the fact that the human brain is a house with very many chambers. What must life be like for such a man? God bless him.