Tom Harrell

Jazz Showcase, Chicago, IL

Tom Harrell
Tom Harrell

Story by Brad Walseth and Photos by John Broughton, Copyright 2010

It is hard not to be affected by the appearance of trumpeter Tom Harrell, who played last week at the Jazz Showcase. A severe paranoid schizophrenic, Harrell has courageously battled his illness with medication to become one of the most acclaimed trumpeters of his generation. Shuffling slowly to the stage, Harrell joined three of Chicago finest musicians on stage for a highly satisfying afternoon performance last Sunday.

Mostly without words, the trumpeter would begin a tune and pianist Willie Pickens, bassist Larry Gray and drummer Ernie Adams would leap in to support their special guest. The high quality of the sidemen involved was a testament to the level of respect given to the trumpeter. On this afternoon, Harrell started on flugelhorn on a wonderful version of "All The Things You Are" - and immediately impressed with his command of his instrument. The masterful Pickens and energetic Adams both added strong solos on this fine opening number. Switching over to trumpet, the band lit into John Coltrane's "Moment's Notice" - with everyone taking solos - Gray especially standing out here with great work on the bass.

During the other player's solos, Harrell would retreat to the side of the stage and stand still with his eyes closed. It has been reported that a symptom of Harrell's condition is that he hears voices, but these voices cease when he is playing. That Harrell has been able to live with this unimaginable existence is amazing, that he can produce music so powerful and full of beauty is near miraculous.

After a trio showcase (minus Harrell) of "Whisper Not," Harrell returned to the stage. The rest of the show consisted of familiar standards, including "Stablemates," "Body and Soul," "Cherokee," "Tenor Madness" and "Milestones." The trumpeter received accolades for his strong and creative lines, while Adams also energized the crowd with his usual explosive work on the drum kit. The strong and sensitive work from all involved made for an enthralling musical experience.

Once again, the Segals and their Jazz Showcase deserve our thanks for offering another world class jazz artist for Chicago audiences to enjoy.

Check out other recent concerts reviews and photos

Return to jazzchicago home