Tom Harrell (born June 16, 1946) is a renowned American post bop jazz trumpeter and composer. However he has a disability which profoundly affects his life away from the stage. He suffers from paranoid schizophrenia. On stage he stands away from the microphone, off to the side, his head bowed and his hands clutching his trumpet. When called upon to play, he walks slowly to the microphone, head still lowered, raising it only to play. When finished, he bows his head and resumes his original place.
He takes antipsychotic drugs for his condition, but has to deal with the side-effects such as weight gain and muscle spasms, depending on which drugs he is taking. Newer drugs appear to control his condition with fewer side effects.
Tom Harrell was born in Urbana, IL and began playing the trumpet at age eight. He soon moved to the San Francisco Bay Area, and was gigging with local bands by age thirteen. 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. After leaving Kenton, Harrell played with Woody Herman's big band (1970-1971), Azteca (1972), the Horace Silver Quintet (1973-1977), the Sam Jones big band, the Lee Konitz Nonet (1979-1981), George Russell, the Mel Lewis Orchestra (1981), and Charlie Haden's Liberation Music Orchestra. In addition, he recorded albums with Bill Evans, Dizzy Gillespie, Ronnie Cuber, Bob Brookmeyer, Lionel Hampton, Bob Berg, and Bobby Shew, among others. From 1983-1989 he was a pivotal member of the Phil Woods Quintet, with whom he toured the world and made many recordings.
Since 1989 Harrell has led his own groups; usually quintets but occasionally big bands. He has appeared at virtually every major jazz club and festival, and recorded under his own name for such record labels as Pinnacle, Blackhawk, Criss Cross, SteepleChase, Contemporary Records, Chesky, and RCA.