Oak Tree (HighNote)

Tom Harrell

Released July 2022

Jazziz Critics’ Picks 2022






In the course of his career, Tom Harrell has left his mark across a wide range of styles, including propulsive bebop, rhythmic Afro-Cuban jazz, studied classical compositional procedures and soothing smooth jazz. In any Tom Harrell performance or recording you will search in vain for Freudian high-note jabs and dazzling displays of over-heated velocity full of empty technique. There’s a remarkable ease and affability to Oak Tree, a recording which features melodies that occasionally sound as inevitable as life itself. And these melodies are played by a quartet which may be one of Harrell’s most symbiotic ensembles; the fluency of superb pianist Luis Perdomo sometimes providing extensions and commentary to Harrell’s improvisational thoughts, the extremely musical drummer Adam Cruz constantly adjusting both his tone and the intensity of his pulse as each composition dictates and bassist Ugonna Okegwo a secure, steady anchor and superb improviser. As for the leader himself, he favors concise, intense solos where the supremacy of his improvising abilities lies as much in what he chooses to leave unsaid as what he allows to peal forth from the bell of his horn. You can write volumes and use any superlatives you like to describe Harrell’s playing but, simply put, he is one of those rare figures who has extended the communicative possibilities of the jazz trumpet while establishing himself as one of the art form’s most important composers.

Track Listing:

1. Evoorg 5:01

2. Fivin’ 5:06

3. Oak Tree 3:34

4. Tribute 3:48

5. Zatoichi 5:21

6. Sun Up 5:05

7. Improv 4:29

8. Shadows 5:22

9. Archaeopteryx 5:24

10. Robot Etude 7:01

11. Love Tide 6:35


Tom Harrell: trumpet & flugelhorn (4, 5 & 8)

Luis Perdomo: piano & Fender Rhodes (2, 4 & 6)

Ugonna Okegwo: bass

Adam Cruz: drums

Recorded November 24 & 25, 2020, at Sear Sound, NYC

Produced by Tom Harrell and Angela Harrell

Engineered by Grant Woods Valentine

Mixed and Mastered by Dave Darlington

Photography by Angela Harrell

Design by Keiji Obata & Junko Mayumi


On Oak Tree, Tom Harrell’s 34th recording as a leader since 1978, the 76-year-old trumpeter continues to impress as an improviser, composer and conceptualizer. A master of idioms that stretch from bop through ballads to bossa and beyond, Harrell crafts 11 ear-catching themes that offer bite-size samples of his multiple talents. Few tracks run longer than five minutes. The leader and his quartet — pianist Luis Perdomo, bassist Ugonna Okegwo and drummer Adam Cruz — make their point, sans indulgent excess, and move on. Each cut is a new adventure, and, as the session’s title suggests, Harrell demonstrates why he is a sturdy survivor with plenty left to give.

Mark Holston (Jazziz)