There were a number of remarkable aspects about Tom Harrell's appearance at the Jazz Bakery Thursday night. But not necessarily the first that might come to mind.
Yes, it is remarkable that Harrell, 53, has become a world-class jazz trumpeter, fluegelhornist and composer despite having to deal with schizophrenia and the difficult side effects of its treatment for decades. This month, Down Beat magazine's readers elected him jazz trumpeter of the year.
But--without minimizing the day-in, day-out distress of living with schizophrenia--it was additionally impressive that, despite that distress, he has taken on a project that involves composing, arranging and leading a 17-piece orchestra. And his Thursday appearance, the first set in a four-night run at the Bakery, was dedicated to supporting the music from his new RCA/BMG album, "Times Mirror."
The unit assembled for the gig consisted of an A-team lineup of Southland musicians. To their credit, despite minimal rehearsal time, they gave a set of sterling performances, trekking through the adventurous twists and turns of Harrell's charts with surprising ease. The arrangements of "Autumn Leaves," "Dream" and Charlie Parker's "Chasin' the Bird," as well as Harrell's original compositions "Daily News" and "Shapes," were filled with enriched harmonies and disjunct lines, but they appeared to pose few problems for the players.