“A supreme trumpet/flugelhorn player, Tom Harrell has an endless flow of bubbling, intricate ideas conveyed with an almost serene delivery. His equal ability as a formidable post-bop composer remains in full flower on this melodic, sharply conceived music. From dangerous tear- ups (Storm Approaching) to near abstract (Study in Sound) to conventional balladry (Roman Nights), Harrell is a master.”
While Harrell is a master of the jazz idiom, he constantly seeks new challenges and influences. He has written scores and arrangements for ballet and symphony and chamber orchestras. Even with a discography of over 280 recordings and a career that spans more than five decades, Harrell has managed to stay fresh and current as he continues to actively record and tour around the world. Harrell all but transcends musical labels. His music runs the gamut from the modal and melodic to uncommon modernisms that sonically broach the film soundtrack and/or the avant-garde. His warm, burnished sound on the trumpet and the flugelhorn, and the unparalleled melodic, 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 and innovative harmonies together with daring rhythmic concepts and unforgettable melodies while utilizing the available colors to full effect. In addition to the JJA award, Harrell was honored with the “Award of Recognition” by the Festival of New Trumpet Music and “Lifetime Achievement Award” by the Jazz Gallery. He is also a frequent winner in DownBeat and JazzTimes magazines’ Critics and Readers Polls and a multiple Grammy nominee and winner.
Harrell’s latest album, OAK TREE, was released in 2022 to critical acclaim. The last ten years have ushered Harrell through a singularly fruitful period. While continuing to tour actively around the world, he has produced an average of one album a year with each successive release markedly distinct from its predecessor. With each new project, the trumpeter- composer always brings something new to the table, but never in a way that ever sounds gimmicky. Harrell has a distinct voice and vision – one that seems to open up new chambers of expression.
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, Orchstre National de Lorraine 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, SONG FOR CHICO, which won a Grammy for the Best Latin Jazz Album.
Some of Harrell’s notable RCA 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. Harrell has worked with important figures in jazz history including Stan Kenton, Woody Herman, Dizzy Gillespie, Horace Silver, Art Farmer, Phil Woods, Lee Konitz, Sam Jones (with whom he co-led a big band in the 70s), Jim Hall, Charlie Haden, Joe Lovano. Harrell was also featured on Grammy-winning albums by Gerry Mulligan and Bill Evans.