2019 Highlight: Tom Harrell, Infinity, High Note

This is a must for hard bop fans, Harrell has come up with the goods on two counts: a fine band (Mark Turner on tenor sax, Charles Altura on guitar, Ben Street on bass and Johnathan Blake on drums) who run hard with the trumpeter; and a bunch of …

Published: 1 Dec 2019. Updated: 2 years.

This is a must for hard bop fans, Harrell has come up with the goods on two counts: a fine band (Mark Turner on tenor sax, Charles Altura on guitar, Ben Street on bass and Johnathan Blake on drums) who run hard with the trumpeter; and a bunch of compositions that make sense and provide both a heat and plenty of depth kept taut and true by the great rhythm section.

Harrell is an inspiration to many trumpeters out there including the UK talent Reuben Fowler and it is easy to see why. Harrell keeps the formula the same on most of his albums so no one is smashing up the rule book but that formula is one that continues to remain true to his vision and there is a clarity on Infinity that you won’t find on too many records out there. SG

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Youn Sun Nah, Lento, ACT

From 2013. There is something very distinctive about Youn Sun Nah as Voyage in 2009 first indicated, and live, too, the singer showed huge talent based on technique and improvisational freedom. At her first UK concert that year, singing in …

Published: 1 Dec 2019. Updated: 3 years.

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From 2013. There is something very distinctive about Youn Sun Nah as Voyage in 2009 first indicated, and live, too, the singer showed huge talent based on technique and improvisational freedom.

At her first UK concert that year, singing in Portuguese, French on Jacques Brel’s ‘Ne Me Quitte Pas’, as well as a knowing version of Jim Pepper’s ‘Witchi Tai To’ and Esbjörn Svensson’s ‘Believe Beleft Below’, Sun Nah greatly impressed a jazz club audience at the Vortex with superb melismatic control and dynamic poise especially in the softer passages.

Follow-up Same Girl was a big seller for the South Korean singer in France, and Lento on paper has plenty of possibilities. However, this latest album, released later this month lacks the spark of Voyage and charisma of Same Girl, although with her fine band of guitarist Ulf Wakenius, illustrious bassist Lars Danielsson, the added accordion of Vincent Peirani and the percussion of Xavier Desandre-Navarre, the framework is there.

Lento can be overly dramatic and the singer’s self-penned ‘Lament’ is certainly in that category, while the awful cowboy song ‘Ghost Riders in the Sky’ I could do without entirely. Navigating material from Nine Inch Nails to Scriabin and back is clearly adventurous, but Youn Sun Nah’s latest requires a leap of faith from even the most fearless listener to work on any significant level. SG