Working firmly in the post-bop tradition, trumpeter Harrell writes pastel, cloud-like pieces in the Gil Evans manner, rich in harmonies and rhythmic detail, and he improvises water-clear, beautifully constructed lines. Here, again in the Miles/Gil mode, he often works with the enveloping, soft-toned flügelhorn, and on " Nighttime, " when he plays a series of long, held tones against a string section, itís like a reprise of the more poignant lyrical moments of Sketches of Spain.
The octet on Paradise includes tenor sax, guitar, piano, drums, string quartet, and harp, and for the most part Harrell avoids hackneyed string sweetening. " Baroque Steps " is based on Mozartian procedures, but most listeners are likely to hear " Eleanor Rigby " in the ostinato sawing of those low strings. Nonetheless, Harrell builds dissonant tension, rather than saccharine consonance, into the counterlines between tenor-saxist Jimmy Greene and the quartet. " Daybreak " builds off spiraling up-and-down figures into a swift bebop line. " Wind Chant " suggests a South African folk melody, and itís supported by electric-Miles-like wah-wah rhythm guitar. Greene is almost as outstanding as Harrell as a soloist, and pianist Xavier Greene engages everyone with his apt comping. Itís only in the second half of this 70-minute CD that Harrell gives in to some writing thatís maybe too beautiful, especially a string-quartet-only section thatís not nearly as engaging as the full-band pieces.
Issue Date: July 26 - August 2, 2001