Jason Harnell is one of the most sought after jazz drummers, educators and composers on the West Coast, and has been a mainstay on the Los Angeles jazz scene for over twenty years. His unmistakable sound and style make him a driving force on the creative music scene. Coming from a musical family (his father is Grammy-award winning pianist/composer Joe Harnell), Jason was practically born with drumsticks in his hands. He started playing drums at age six when a close family friend and jazz drumming icon, Louie Bellson, gave him his first real set of drums. Jason started playing professionally at age eleven with his grandfather’s seven piece dance band, and throughout his early career has had the good fortune of studying with master drummers like Hank Bellson, Shelly Manne, Dave Weckl, Jeff Hamilton, Joe LaBarbera and Vinnie Colaiuta. By age 22, Jason was asked to join legendary trumpeter Maynard Ferguson and his “Big Bop Noveau" band. He toured all over the world and recorded an album with Maynard, entitled These Cats Can Swing in 1992.
Through the years, Jason has performed and recorded with many of the world's top jazz musicians including Ben Wendel, Anthony Wilson, Dave Carpenter, Kate McGarry, Theo Bleckman, Ron Stout, Gary Versace, Rueben Rogers, Sheila Jordan, Tim Reis, Tigran Hamasyan and his father, Joe Harnell, to name a few. Jason plays regularly in bands featuring musicians such as Bob Sheppard (Chick Corea), Larry Goldings (John Scofield), Larry Koonse (Lee Konitz), Joe Bagg (Larry Coryell) and Kei Akagi (Miles Davis). Jason also keeps a very busy performance schedule as an active member of several L.A. based original bands, including "JoE-LeSs ShOe", a critically acclaimed bass-less trio; "3-ish", an adventuresome chord-less trio who released their debut CD, Baobab in 2008; and "GO SHLOMO!", a keyboard/drum set duo project. All of these projects focus on original material, and each group displays a unique ability to traverse boundaries while exploring the very deepest levels of empathetic group interplay and improvisation.
Jason began teaching drums at age fifteen, and went on to instruct, write and arrange for two award-winning high school drum line/percussion ensembles in the Tampa Bay area. Jason is one of the most in demand educators in his field and is on faculty at University of California Irvine and the Musicians Institute in Hollywood where he teaches an advanced jazz drumming class for which he wrote the curriculum. He is also a "core" member of the influential "Los Angeles Jazz Collective", a group of creative, like-minded musicians dedicated to building a stronger jazz community within Los Angeles.
Jason has been featured in such national publications as Modern Drummer, DRUM!, Jazziz and DownBeat. He can be heard and seen on the films J. Edgar and Funny People, as well as television shows, including Married with Children and Beverly Hills 90210. His commercial credits include Verizon, Nissan, Chili's, Cheetos, the Houston Chronicle and Suntory Royal Whisky, to name but a few.
Jason proudly plays and endorses Yamaha Drums, Istanbul cymbals, Remo drumheads and Vic Firth drumsticks.