"Both Debussy and Ravel transformed the world of music by creating a new sensibility of beauty of sound," says trumpeter/composer, Tom Harrell, who himself is known for his superb lyricism and poetry in his playing and writing. "I am attracted to their music because of their use of Afro-Hispanic and Afro-Cuban rhythms and melodies. I am also deeply influenced by tone poems, so writing arrangements for a project that explicitly celebrates two of my favorite French composers, Debussy and Ravel, makes complete sense to me. I was thrilled to write extended forms that are rich in modal harmonies."
On his new album, FIRST IMPRESSIONS, Harrell interprets the works of these two French composers with his nine-piece chamber ensemble. The personnel include:s the members of his working band of 10 years – Wayne Escoffery (tenor and soprano sax), Danny Grissett (piano), Ugonna Okegwo (bass), and Johnathan Blake (drums); a notable jazz woodwind player, Charles Pillow on flutes; and three string players who are equally adept at classical and jazz repertoires - Meg Okura (violin), Rubin Kodheli (cello), aand Rale Micic (guitar).
For Harrell, this project is a natural progression in his musical odyssey. His affinity for the European classical tradition is apparent in some of his previously recorded works. 'Majesty" (LABYRINTH, RCA 1996) "Baroque Steps," and "Morning Prayer, Part 1" (PARADISE, Bluebird/BMG 2000) and "Snow," (WISE CHILDREN, Arista/BMG 2003) are some of the pieces inspired by European classical music.
The repertoire includes:
"Voices" based on Ravel’s “Vocalise-Étude en Forme de Habanera"
"Sainte" – a Ravel piece that shows Satie influence
"Reverie" – Debussy
"Passepied" - Debussy
“Beau Soir" - Debussy
"Sarabande" – Debussy, to be played in a duet with pianist Danny Grissett
and originals by Harrell with influences of Impressionist music:
“Musique du Café"
Tom Harrell, trumpet & flugelhorn
Wayne Escoffery, soprano & tenor saxophone
Charles Pillow, flute & bass flute
Danny Grissett, piano
Rale Micic, guitar
Meg Okura, violin
Rubin Kodheli, cello
Ugonna Okegwo, bass
Johnathan Blake, drums
Musique du Café