tom harrell & the tom harrell quintet

TOM HARRELL, composer & TRUMPETER

Praised by Newsweek for his pure melodic genius, Tom Harrell is widely recognized as one of the most creative and dynamic jazz instrumentalists and composers of our time. While Harrell is a master of the jazz idiom, he constantly seeks new challenges and influences. Even with a discography of over 260 recordings and a career that spans more than four decades, Harrell has managed to stay fresh and current as he continues to actively record and tour around the world. He is a frequent winner in Down Beat and Jazz Times magazines’ Critics and Readers Polls and a Grammy nominee. 

His warm, burnished sound on the trumpet and the flugelhorn, and the unparalleled 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 harmonies together with daring rhythmic concepts and unforgettable melodies while utilizing the available colors to full effect. 

His forthcoming album, First Impressions (September 18, 2015 release), is a chamber ensemble recording of Harrell’s own arrangements of (mostly) chansons by Debussy and Ravel. The ensemble was featured on PBS’ Soundtracks and toured in the US and Poland. Harrell will reprise the group for a week at the Village Vanguard starting October 6.

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 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, which just won a Grammy for the Best Latin Jazz Album.

Some of Harrell’s notable RCA/BMG 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 Acuna; 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, Dizzie 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, and Joe Lovano. Harrell was featured on Grammy-winning albums by Gerry Mulligan (Walk on the Water) and Bill Evans (We Will Meet Again). 

In 2014, he toured internationally with his sextet, Colors of a Dream, featuring Esperanza Spalding on bass and vocals. The group’s eponymous album was released in 2013 by HighNote Records.

DAVID VIRELLES, PIANIST

Named one of four pianists on the rise by the New York Times and “ #1 Rising Star” in the Piano category in DownBeat Magazine’s Critics Poll in 2015, as well as being selected as one of the “Jazz Artists” and “Albums of the Year” in the aforementioned publication, Cuban born pianist David Virelles grew up in a musical home. He started studying music at seven, as well as being exposed to the Cuban musical traditions. 

In 2001, he left for Canada as a protégé of Jane Bunnett. David was the first recipient of the Oscar Peterson prize, presented by Peterson personally.
He has performed with: Ravi Coltrane, Henry Threadgill, Tomasz Stanko, Dewey Redman, Sam Rivers, Steve Coleman, Andrew Cyrille, Hermeto Pascoal, “Changuito”, Stanley Cowell, Chucho Valdés, Paul Motian, Chris Potter, Flea, Tom Harrell, among others.

Virelles' album Continuum made several "Best Of The Year" lists in 2012, being selected #1 in The New York Times.  His latest album Mbòkó, was released on October 7th, 2014 on the Munich label ECM and ended up in virtually every Best Of The Year 2014 lists, including the New York Times, NPR, iTunes, The Village Voice, among other publications. 

adam cruz, drummer

A creative force on the international jazz scene, drummer and composer Adam Cruz is best known for his work with Danilo Perez, Tom Harrell, Steve Wilson, The Mingus Big Band, and Edward Simon. Cruz was born in New York City. He worked extensively with saxophonist David Sanchez and the Mingus Big Band during the 1990’s. He then toured with Chick Corea and Origin, culminating in the recordings Origin and A Week at the Blue Note.

In recent years Cruz has forged a steady musical relationship with pianist Danilo Perez and is a member of the Danilo Perez Trio, which also features bassist Ben Street. His teachers have included his father - percussionist Ray Cruz, Frank Malabe, Victor Lewis, Kenny Washington and Joe Chambers. He has worked at various times in groups led by artists such as Chris Potter, John Patitucci, Pharaoh Sanders, Joey Calderazzo, and Paquito D’Rivera. Cruz is also a member of the newly formed Tom Harrell quartet “Trip” featuring Mark Turner and Ugonna Okegwo. Cruz’s remarkable musicianship has made him one of the most in demand drummers of today. In 2010 he was awarded a grant from the ACFM to record his much anticipated, debut solo recording as a composer and bandleader entitled Milestone. 

Milestone was released in 2011 on Sunnyside Records and received great critical acclaim by the Los Angeles Times, Downbeat Magazine, and Jazz Times. The New York Times describes the album as "Informed by several strains of Latin music but just as meaningfully by brisk post-bop and lyrically minded free jazz".

ugonna okegwo, bassist

Ugonna Okegwo is one of the most distinctive and sought-after jazz bassists in the world. Critics across the globe have praised him for his rich tone, supple sense of swing, stylistic range and inventiveness. These qualities have not only earned him a place on the bandstand with jazz legends as diverse as Clark Terry, Benny Golson, Pharoah Sanders and Joseph Jarman – they have established him as one of the leading lights of a younger generation redefining jazz for the new century. 

"He is very individualistic, both in his soloing and accompanying. I love the way he plays in the ensemble,” says Tom Harrell, with whom Okegwo has worked for several years. “Ugonna does some really creative things that I haven't heard anyone do with his articulation and timing."

Born March 15, 1962 in London to a German mother and Nigerian father, Okegwo was raised in Germany and grew up listening to African-American music -- James Brown, Jimi Hendrix, Miles Davis, Ornette Coleman, and, eventually, the great Charles Mingus. 

"What I always heard first in funk and rock 'n roll were the bass lines, the ostinato, and later, in jazz, the walking bass," he recalls. "That's what first got me playing bass.” The fusing of funk and jazz bass conceptions is a foundation of Okegwo’s unique approach, making his sound instantly recognizable.

In 1986, he moved to Berlin to study with the American expatriate bassist Jay Oliver, and with the American pianist Walter Norris. There Okegwo caught the attention of many prominent jazz musicians, most notably the trombonist and Mingus alum, Lou Blackburn, who invited Okegwo to tour Europe with his Afro-Jazz group “Mombasa”. While working with Blackburn, Okegwo met and played with trumpeter Joe Newman, drummer Oliver Jackson, and the bassist Major Holley, who encouraged him to move to New York.

In 1989, Okegwo made the leap to Manhattan and began playing with musicians like saxophone legends Big Nick Nicholas, Junior Cook, and James Spaulding. In 1992, a call from legendary vocalist Jon Hendricks led to steady work as a sideman - on stage and in recording studios. In 1994 Hendricks even took Okegwo to the White House to perform for the President. During this time, Okegwo’s artistry attracted two other gifted young musicians -- pianist Jacky Terrason and drummer Leon Parker. The trio joined forces and at famous clubs like the Village Gate and Bradley’s, developing one of the most creative and explosive group sounds of the nineties.

Recently, Okegwo expanded his horizons and became a bandleader. In 2002 he took his quartet to Europe and documented the group with a recording entitled "UOniverse" [Satchmo Jazz]. The material, which consists of his compositions and brilliantly arranged standards, draws from a wide range of influences, including jazz, African, funk, and classical music. 

Ralph Moore, tenor sax

“If you take care of the music, the music will take care of you. This is not something I just believe, this is something I’ve lived.”   RMoore

Ralph Moore’s last recording as a leader was entitled Who It Is You Are - words taken from a poem written by NJ poet laureate, Amiri Baraka. Twenty years later, Baraka has recently passed and some folks are asking the tenor saxophonist - “where it is you’ve been.”

While Moore has not been on the jazz scene per se (he has been living in Los Angeles for the last 19 years), he, nonetheless, has never separated from the purity of the passion that drives him every day.   Fifteen years playing tenor in the band for The Tonight Show w/Jay Leno kept Moore on the left coast and restricted to playing locally due to the constraints of the television show.   During that time, Moore collaborated in a few cooperative jazz quartets and quintets – one in particular and aptly named Escape from New York, featuring some of his Tonight Show co-horts, drummer Marvin “Smitty” Smith and bassist Bob Hurst. "The outlet was absolutely necessary,” says Moore. The group tooled around locally for five years, honing a sound and a repertoire.

With The Tonight Show w/Jay Leno well behind him now Moore is poised to get back to what is intrinsically and innately who he is – a jazz musician playing and creating the music he loves.

London-born Moore has been a dedicated musician since he was a teenager, and the life has paid huge dividends.  Moore was born to a British show business family and although means were scarce, life was, nonetheless, culturally rich .  His mother, Josephine Wood, a lifelong dancer, and the subject of a BBC2 Black Britain documentary, encouraged Moore creatively.  High school years were spent with his American father in Santa Maria, CA and college at Berklee College of Music in Boston before making the sojourn to New York in 1981.

In the 80s and early 90s he moved from a positionas an in-demand sideman with lengthy musical stints and recordings with Dizzy Gillespie, Horace Silver, Freddie Hubbard, Ray Brown,  Roy Haynes, J.J. Johnson, Cedar Walton,  Bobby Hutcherson, McCoy Tyner, Roy Hargrove, Oscar Peterson, Kenny Baron)  to name just a few.  Moore has a number of fine albums out on Landmark (now 32 Jazz)  Criss Cross, Concord, Reservoir and Savoy labels.