Born in Urbana, Illinois, and raised in Los Altos, California, Tom took up trumpet at the age of eight. The Louis Armstrong and Benny Goodman recordings in his parents' collection appealed to him and he began playing jazz almost immediately.
After graduating from Stanford University with a degree in music composition, he went out on the road with Stan Kenton and then with Woody Herman. He joined the Horace Silver Quintet in 1973.
He was a regular member of the group for four years. Tom cut five albums with Horace and went on to record with Bill Evans, Lee Konitz and Bob Brookmeyer.
After Silver, Tom worked with all the jazz greats from Lionel Hampton to the Thad Jones-Mel Lewis big band. In 1979 Tom played his first gig with Phil Woods. In 1984 he became a regular member of the group. From the nurturing, creative shelter of the Phil Woods Quintet, Tom has emerged as a prolific composer and arranger as well as one of the very finest trumpet players.
Tom Harrell has released two albums for Chesky Records, Passages in 1992 and Upswing in 1994.