Tom Harrell

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Tom Harrell
Harrell performing in 2011
Harrell performing in 2011
Background information
Born (1946-06-16) June 16, 1946 (age 76)
Urbana, Illinois, U.S.
Instrument(s)Trumpet, flugelhorn
Years active1969–present
LabelsContemporary, Chesky, RCA, High Note
Tom Harrell at the 2017 Oslo Jazz Festival

Tom Harrell (born June 16, 1946)[1] is an American jazz trumpeter, flugelhornist, composer, and arranger. Voted Trumpeter of the Year of 2018 by Jazz Journalists Association, Harrell has won awards and grants throughout his career, including multiple Trumpeter of the Year awards from Down Beat magazine,[2] SESAC Jazz Award, BMI (Broadcast Music Incorporated) Composers Award, and Prix Oscar du Jazz. He received a Grammy Award nomination for his big band album, Time's Mirror.


Tom Harrell was born in Urbana, Illinois, United States,[1] but moved to the San Francisco Bay Area at the age of five. He started playing trumpet at eight, and within five years he was playing gigs with local bands. In 1969 he graduated from Stanford University with a music composition degree and joined Stan Kenton's orchestra, touring and recording with them throughout 1969.[3] Harrell pursued his musical career despite experiencing symptoms of schizophrenia since he was an adolescent.[4]

After leaving Kenton, Harrell played with Woody Herman's big band (1970–1971), Azteca (1972), the Horace Silver Quintet (1973–1977), with whom he made five albums, the Sam Jones-Tom Harrell Big Band, the Lee Konitz Nonet (1979–1981), George Russell, and the Mel Lewis Orchestra (1981).[1] From 1983 to 1989, he was a pivotal member of the Phil Woods Quintet and made seven albums with the group.[1]

In addition, he performed with Vince Guaraldi on the Peanuts television specials You're Not Elected, Charlie Brown (1972), There's No Time for Love, Charlie Brown, A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving (both 1973) and It's a Mystery, Charlie Brown (1974).

Harrell also performed with Bill Evans, Dizzy Gillespie, Jim Hall, Ronnie Cuber, Bob Brookmeyer, Lionel Hampton, Bob Berg, Cecil Payne, Bobby Shew, Philip Catherine, Ivan Paduart [fr], Joe Lovano, Charlie Haden's Liberation Orchestra, Charles McPherson, David Sánchez, Sheila Jordan, Jane Monheit, the King's Singers and Kathleen Battle among others.[3][5][6] Harrell is featured on Bill Evans' final studio recording, We Will Meet Again, which won a Grammy Award for Best Instrumental Jazz Performance, Group.[7]

While Harrell recorded several albums as a leader during his tenure with the Phil Woods Quintet, it was after his departure that he started producing albums as a leader, in succession for Contemporary Records (now owned by Concord), Chesky, and RCA/BMG. During his years as a BMG artist (1996–2003) first with RCA, then Bluebird and finally Arista, Harrell made six albums, many of which feature his arrangements for larger groups. Since the early 1990s, Harrell has toured and performed with his own groups of various sizes and instrumentation.[5]

Harrell is a prolific arranger and composer. He has arranged for Vince Guaraldi's work on Peanuts, Carlos Santana, the Metropole Orchestra, the Danish Radio Big Band, the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra, and Elisabeth Kontomanou with the Orchestre National de Lorraine [fr], among others. His compositions have been recorded by other jazz artists including Ron Carter, Kenny Barron, Art Farmer, Chris Potter, Tom Scott, Steve Kuhn, Kenny Werner and Hank Jones. Harrell's composition and big band arrangement entitled "Humility" was recorded on the Grammy-winning album by Arturo O'Farrill's Afro-Latin Jazz Orchestra, Song for Chico. As a composer and arranger, Harrell works in different genres, including classical music.[3][8]

Tom Harrell Quintet[edit]

Since 1989 Harrell has led his own groups, usually quintets but occasionally expanded ensembles such as chamber orchestras with strings, and big bands. He has appeared at most major jazz clubs and festival venues, and recorded under his own name for such record labels as RCA, Contemporary, Pinnacle, Blackhawk, Criss Cross, SteepleChase, Chesky, and HighNote.[3]

From 1994 to 1996, the quintet contained Don Braden, Kenny Werner, Larry Grenadier, and Billy Hart.[9][10] From 2000 to 2005, it contained Jimmy Greene, Xavier Davis, Ugonna Okegwo, and Quincy Davis.[11]

In contrast to his signature recordings during the RCA/BMG years (1996–2003), where much of his focus was on projects involving large ensembles, big bands and chamber orchestras, Harrell's more recent works demonstrate his skills as a leader of a tight, smaller unit. Harrell's later quintet of tenor saxophonist Wayne Escoffery, pianist Danny Grissett, bassist Ugonna Okegwo (who has performed with Harrell since 1997), and drummer Johnathan Blake,[12] was noted for the strong chemistry between the musicians and the distinctive sound achieved primarily through Harrell's compositions.[13][14] It recorded five albums for HighNote:[15] Light On, Prana Dance, Roman Nights, The Time of the Sun, and Number Five. For the last of these, Harrell received his seventh SESAC Jazz Award.[16]

Tom Harrell Chamber Ensemble[edit]

In June 2012, Harrell debuted his nine-piece chamber ensemble at the Highline Ballroom as part of the Blue Note Jazz Festival. Harrell arranged the music of Debussy, Ravel, and his own compositions for this ensemble, which consists of trumpet, soprano and tenor saxophones, c-flute and bass flute, violin, cello, acoustic guitar, piano, bass, and drums.[17] The Tom Harrell Chamber Ensemble has since performed at the Village Vanguard, Autumn Jazz Festival in Bielsko Biala, the Jazz Standard, the Xerox Rochester International Jazz Festival, the Scripps Auditorium in San Diego, and Soka University Performing Arts Center in Aliso Viejo, CA. Harrell considers the arrangements and compositions some of the most challenging works he has written to date.[17][18][additional citation(s) needed]

Colors of a Dream[edit]

In 2013, Harrell formed a piano-less sextet with two basses called Colors of a Dream, which comprises himself on trumpet and flugelhorn, Wayne Escoffery on tenor saxophone, Jaleel Shaw on alto saxophone, Johnathan Blake on drums, Ugonna Okegwo on bass and Esperanza Spalding doubling on bass and vocal. The group debuted at the Village Vanguard during its six-night run starting March 26, 2013 and the second night's performance was webcast for live streaming by NPR.[19][20] A studio album by the same name was released on October 22, 2013, for which Harrell received his eighth SESAC Jazz Awards the following year.[21][22]


Harrell also recorded with TRIP, a piano-less quartet featuring saxophonist Mark Turner, bassist Ugonna Okegwo and drummer Adam Cruz in 2013. The group first performed in Rochester, New York, and at the Jazz Standard during Dave Douglas' Festival of New Trumpet Music (FONT) in October 2012. Harrell premiered the suite with six sections he wrote specifically for this group. TRIP reconvened a year later at the Village Vanguard and made a studio recording the following week.[20][23] The quartet released the self-titled album TRIP on August 12, 2014.[24]


Harrell's work as composer and jazz soloist has been published in books by Hal Leonard,[25] Jamey Aebersold,[26] Sher Music,[27][28] and Gerard and Sarzin.[29]


As leader[edit]

  • Aurora (1976, reissued as Total, 1987)
  • Mind's Ear (1978)
  • Play of Light (Palo Alto, 1982)
  • Moon Alley (Criss Cross, 1985)
  • Sundance (1986) with George Robert
  • Open Air (SteepleChase, 1987)
  • Stories (Contemporary, 1988)
  • Sail Away (Contemporary,1989)
  • Lonely Eyes (GRP, 1989) with George Robert
  • Form (Contemporary, 1990)
  • Visions (Contemporary, 1991)
  • Sail Away (Musidisc, 1991)
  • Passages (Chesky, 1991)
  • Moon and Sand (Jazz Aux Remparts, 1991) with Jacky Terrasson
  • Upswing (Chesky, 1993)
  • Cape Verde (Mons, 1995) with George Robert
  • Labyrinth (RCA Victor, 1996)
  • The Art of Rhythm (RCA Victor, 1998)
  • Time's Mirror (RCA Victor, 1999)
  • Paradise (RCA Victor, 2001)
  • Live at the Village Vanguard (Bluebird, 2002)
  • Wise Children (Bluebird, 2003, Recorded 1993)
  • The Auditorium Session (Parco Della Musica Records, 2008, Recorded 2005)
  • Light On (HighNote, 2007)
  • Prana Dance (HighNote, 2009)
  • Roman Nights (HighNote, 2010)
  • The Time of the Sun (HighNote, 2011)
  • Number Five (HighNote, 2012)
  • Colors of a Dream (HighNote, 2013)
  • Trip (HighNote, 2014)
  • First Impressions (HighNote, 2015, Recorded 2013)
  • Something Gold, Something Blue (HighNote, 2016)
  • Moving Picture (HighNote, 2017)
  • Infinity (HighNote, 2019)
  • Oak Tree (HighNote, 2022, Recorded 2020)

As co-leader[edit]

With Ben Aronov, Bob Brookmeyer and Buster Williams

With Art Farmer

With John McNeil

  • Look to the Sky (SteepleChase, 1979)

With Dado Moroni

  • Humanity (Abeat Records, 2007)

As sideman[edit]

With Don Braden

With Gordon Brisker

  • Cornerstone (Sea Breeze, 1984)[30]

With Donald Brown

With Thomas Chapin

With Harold Danko

  • Coincidence (Dreamstreet, 1979)[31]

With Bill Evans

With George Gruntz

With Charlie Haden

With Jim Hall

With Ethan Iverson

With Steve Kuhn

  • Seasons of Romance (Postcards, 1995)

With Lee Konitz

With Mike LeDonne

  • 'Bout Time (Criss Cross, 1988)
  • The Feeling of Jazz (Criss Cross, 1990)

With Joe Lovano

With Charles McPherson

With Idris Muhammad

With Shinobu Itoh

  • Sailing Rolling (1991)

With Bob Mover

With Gerry Mulligan

With Bobby Paunetto

With Cecil Payne

With Horace Silver

With Steve Swallow

With Phil Woods

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d Colin Larkin, ed. (1992). The Guinness Who's Who of Jazz (First ed.). Guinness Publishing. p. 190. ISBN 0-85112-580-8.
  2. ^ "Tom Harrell Goes the Big-Band Rout". Los Angeles Times. December 4, 1999. Archived from the original on July 28, 2013. Retrieved June 29, 2014.
  3. ^ a b c d "Daily Dose of Jazz… Tom Harrell". notorious jazz blog. 16 June 2014. Archived from the original on September 2, 2014. Retrieved September 1, 2014.
  4. ^ Sacks, Oliver (2007). Musicophilia: Tales of Music and the Brain (first ed.). New York: Vintage Books. p. 332. ISBN 978-1-4000-3353-9.
  5. ^ a b "Allmusic: Tom Harrell - Biography". Archived from the original on February 9, 2015. Retrieved September 1, 2014.
  6. ^ "Interview: A Fireside Chat With Tom Harrell". All About Jazz. November 14, 2003. Archived from the original on October 19, 2013. Retrieved June 29, 2014.
  7. ^ "Awards & Shows – Grammy Awards 1981". Archived from the original on October 21, 2013. Retrieved August 3, 2014.
  8. ^ Bill Milkowski (May 1998). "Tom Harrell: Senses and Sensibilities". JazzTimes. Archived from the original on July 20, 2015. Retrieved July 19, 2015.
  9. ^ "New York Magazine". New York Media, LLC: 75. 1976-08-16. ISSN 0028-7369. Retrieved 2015-05-14.
  10. ^ "Tom Harrell". Retrieved 2015-05-14.
  11. ^ "Tom Harrell Quintet | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader". 7 June 2001. Retrieved 2015-05-14.
  12. ^ "Tom Harrell: Roman Nights (2010)". All About Jazz. April 18, 2010. Archived from the original on October 14, 2013. Retrieved June 29, 2014.
  13. ^ "Tom Harrell - Roman Nights". The Irish Times. July 7, 2010. Archived from the original on August 12, 2011. Retrieved June 29, 2014.
  14. ^ "Tom Harrell - Roma Nights - High Note". Audiophile Audition. May 3, 2010. Archived from the original on December 28, 2013. Retrieved June 29, 2014.
  15. ^ Dryden, Ken. "Tom Harrell: Number Five". Archived from the original on September 2, 2012. Retrieved December 11, 2018.
  16. ^ "SESAC Honors Music Greats at 8th Annual Jazz Awards Luncheon". SESAC. March 9, 2012. Archived from the original on July 28, 2013. Retrieved June 29, 2014.
  17. ^ a b "NYC-style jazz meets classical music". Daily News. New York. November 27, 2011. Archived from the original on November 19, 2012. Retrieved June 29, 2014.
  18. ^ "Tom Harrell Chamber Ensemble at Xerox Rochester International Jazz Festival". Archived from the original on October 27, 2014. Retrieved October 26, 2014.
  19. ^ "Tom Harrell's 'Colors Of A Dream': Live At The Village Vanguard". March 27, 2013. Archived from the original on January 10, 2014. Retrieved June 29, 2014.
  20. ^ a b Phillip Lutz (January 2014). "Tom Harrell 'Magic Can Happen Anytime'" (PDF). DownBeat Magazine. pp. 34–38. Retrieved June 29, 2014.
  21. ^ "SESAC Honors Music Greats at 9th Annual Jazz Awards Luncheon". Retrieved 25 November 2014.
  22. ^ "Allmusic: Tom Harrell - Colors of a Dream - overview". Archived from the original on April 6, 2015. Retrieved June 29, 2014.
  23. ^ "Rochester, NY: Exodus To Jazz presents Tom Harrell". Archived from the original on January 11, 2014. Retrieved October 26, 2014.
  24. ^ "Allmusic: Tom Harrell – Trip". Archived from the original on September 28, 2014. Retrieved August 26, 2014.
  25. ^ "Tom Harrel - Jazz Trumpet Solos Collection". Hal Leonard Corporation. Archived from the original on July 28, 2013. Retrieved June 29, 2014.
  26. ^ "Volume 63 - Tom Harrell". Archived from the original on July 28, 2013. Retrieved June 29, 2014.
  27. ^ "The All-Jazz Real Book". Sher Music Co. Archived from the original on January 9, 2013. Retrieved June 29, 2014.
  28. ^ [1][dead link]
  29. ^ "Straight Ahead Jazz Fakebook". Gerard and Sarzin Publishing Co. Archived from the original on October 20, 2013. Retrieved June 29, 2014.
  30. ^ "Allmusic: Gordon Brisker - Cornerstone - overview". Archived from the original on November 26, 2015. Retrieved June 29, 2014.
  31. ^ "Allmusic: Harold Danko - Coincidence - overview". Archived from the original on January 11, 2016. Retrieved June 29, 2014.
  32. ^ Blue Note LP BN-LA406G, 1975
  33. ^ "Allmusic: Tom Harrell - Credits". Archived from the original on September 5, 2014. Retrieved September 4, 2014.

External links[edit]