A supreme trumpeter and flugelhornist, Tom Harrell creates a seemingly endless flow of bubbling, intricate ideas conveyed with an almost serene delivery. Neither aggressively avant-garde, nor riveted in the past, Tom Harrell’s music simply celebrates sonic beauty for its own sake. Praised for his pure melodic genius, he is widely recognized as one of the most creative and uncompromising jazz instrumentalists and composers of our time.
The journey began in Urbana, Illinois, where Tom Harrell was born on June 16, 1946. He was raised in Los Altos, California, near Stanford University, where his father taught. Tom took up trumpet when he was eight and began improvising almost immediately, inspired by the Louis Armstrong and Benny Goodman records in his parents’ collection. Trumpeter Clifford Brown also was a major influence on the young musician.
Harrell was gigging around the San Francisco peninsula, on both trumpet and piano, by the time he was 13, and as a teenager, he had the perspicacity to study with renowned alto saxophonists John Handy and Lee Konitz, among others. After graduating from Stanford with a degree in music composition, he joined the Stan Kenton orchestra and then played in Woody Herman’s trumpet section in after that. He spent the next year in the Latin-jazz fusion band, Azteca, prior to a four-year stint with the Horace Silver Quintet.
The Silver gig persuaded Harrell to move to New York, where he was soon making records with Konitz, Bill Evans, Phil Woods and other jazz greats. He spent much of the 1980s touring with the Phil Woods Quintet, who pronounced Tom “the best musician I’ve encountered in 40 years of music.” Tom has been leading his own groups since 1989.
Now in its seventh year of touring and a five-album output together, the quintet is reminiscent of the Horace Silver and Art Blakey bands because of its infectious accessibility, but even tighter. The sound is very much infused with Tom Harrell’s own modern lyricism with unparalleled harmonic and rhythmic sophistication. The very latest CD is called Number Five (HighNote), but it looks like number six is not far behind.
Tom Harrell – trumpet and flugelhorn
Wayne Escoffery – tenor saxophone
Danny Grissett – piano and Fender Rhodes
Ugonna Okegwo – double bass
Johnathan Blake – drums