Praised by Newsweek for his pure melodic genius, Tom Harrell is widely recognized as one of the most creative and dynamic jazz instrumentalists and composers of our time. While Harrell is a master of the jazz idiom, he constantly seeks new challenges and influences. Even with a discography of over 260 recordings and a career that spans more than four decades, Harrell has managed to stay fresh and current as he continues to actively record and tour around the world. He is a frequent winner in Down Beat and Jazz Times magazines’ Critics and Readers Polls and a Grammy nominee.
His warm, burnished sound on the trumpet and the flugelhorn, and the unparalleled harmonic and rhythmic sophistication in his playing and writing, have earned Harrell his place as a jazz icon to aspiring musicians and devoted fans alike. His music is at once intelligent, soulful, fresh and accessible. No matter the size of the group he works with, the trumpeter-composer deftly weaves complex harmonies together with daring rhythmic concepts and unforgettable melodies while utilizing the available colors to full effect.
Some of Harrell’s notable earlier (1996 – 2003) RCA/BMG recordings include WISE CHILDREN, a project in which he combines woodwinds, brass, horns, strings, guitars, percussion and the vocals of Cassandra Wilson, Dianne Reeves, Jane Monheit and Claudia Acuña; PARADISE and THE ART OF RHYTHM, both of which feature chamber groups with strings; and his Grammy-nominated big band album, TIME’S MIRROR.
After a string of albums – NUMBER FIVE (2012), THE TIME OF THE SUN (2011), ROMAN NIGHTS (2010), PRANA DANCE (2009) and LIGHT ON (2007) – with the QUINTET (Wayne Escoffery on tenor sax, Danny Grissett on piano and Fender Rhodes, Ugonna Okegwo on bass and Johnathan Blake on drums) he has kept together for almost ten years, Harrell has begun to develop new projects, often involving some or all of the quintet members, like FIRST IMPRESSIONS (2015), a chamber ensemble recording of Harrell’s own arrangements of (mostly) chansons by Debussy and Ravel, or TRIP, a piano-less quartet that formed after Harrell was commissioned by Dave Douglas to write new music for the Festival of New Trumpet Music. Harrell describes the quartet as a chamber group, where each instrument plays an equally important role. TRIP features tenor saxophonists Ralph Moore or Mark Turner, Harrell’s long-time bassist Ugonna Okegwo and drummer Adam Cruz. With COLORS OF A DREAM (2013), Harrell takes the piano-less concept one step further, using two acoustic basses (Ugonna Okegwo and Esperanza Spalding) in a sextet with three horns (Jaleel Shaw on alto sax, Wayne Escoffery on tenor, and himself on trumpet and flugelhorn) plus drums (Johnathan Blake).
A graduate of Stanford University with a degree in music composition, Harrell is a prolific composer and arranger. Carlos Santana, Cold Blood, Azteca, Vince Guaraldi, Hank Jones, Kenny Barron, the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra, Danish Radio Big Band, WDR Big Band, Brussels Jazz Orchestra, Metropole Orchestra and Arturo O’Farrill & the Afro-Latin Jazz Orchestra are among the many who have recorded or performed his work. Harrell’s composition and arrangement, “Humility,” was recorded for the latter’s 2008 release, which just won a Grammy for the Best Latin Jazz Album.
In addition to the 27 albums and thousands of concerts worldwide as a leader, Harrell has worked with important figures in Jazz history including Stan Kenton, Woody Herman, Dizzy Gillespie, Horace Silver, Bill Evans, Gerry Mulligan, Art Farmer, Phil Woods, Lee Konitz, Sam Jones (with whom he briefly co-led a big band in the 70s), Jim Hall, Charlie Haden, Joe Lovano and Charles McPherson. Harrell has also recorded on Grammy-winning albums by Gerry Mulligan and Bill Evans.