Channeling Music

Tom Harrell has said he's not so much a creator of music as a channel for it. At 54, Harrell is an exceptional composer and one of the premier trumpeters on the jazz circuit, known for blowing some of the most unique lines in bebop. As his Grammy-nominated album Time's Mirror demonstrates, Harrell doesn't write blowing vehicles, he creates well-conceived tunes filled with originality.

Harrell's highly regarded status is not surprising given his experience. He has performed with some of jazz's most noted leaders, composers and arrangers, including Stan Kenton, Woody Herman, Horace Silver, Bill Evans, Lee Konitz and Phil Woods. Aside from sheer musical integrity, each of the aforementioned artists demanded something different from his trumpet player, and Harrell delivered. At the time he became a leader in the late 1980s, buzz about his work as a sideman was loud, and expectations were high.

Over the past decade Harrell has exceeded those expectations. He has topped critics' and readers' polls in jazz magazines and other publications, and even received the best jazz album nod from Entertainment Weekly for his 1998 release, The Art of Rhythm. And he has achieved everything while battling schizophrenia since the early '60s.

Harrell's most awe-inspiring moments are when he's on stage. That's when he truly becomes a vehicle for the music. When he plays a chart, he pays close attention to detail. But when he improvises, he's set free from boundaries. At those moments, to call what comes out of his horn the work of genius wouldn't be a stretch at all.

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