My Top Ten Jazz Trumpet Players of Today

The inimitable Wynton Marsalis wins the Stanley Curtis "Best Jazz Trumpeter" once again.

The inimitable Wynton Marsalis wins the “Stanley Curtis Best Jazz Trumpeter Award”–once again.

This is a list of my top-ten favorite jazz trumpet players living and playing in our time. By “jazz trumpet players,” I mean trumpeters who primarily play jazz improvisation. Although my list is a little “rearguard” rather than avant-garde, I am sure you will enjoy listening to these guys if you haven’t already. On each name, I give a hyperlink to a website that explains why this trumpeter is great. Then I also give a little taste of that player’s music with an embedded YouTube viewer. I welcome your opinions–feel free to post! Enjoy!

1. Wynton Marsalis. No one can touch him in terms of rhythmic drive, technique, awards, recognition and contributions. A straight-ahead approach with a focus on the roots of jazz. In my opinion he just gets better and better.


2. Tom Harrell. An amazing human being and jazz musician. Check out this solo (unaccompanied) on “Joy Spring” (click the word “solo”). Here’s an interesting interview/documentary produced by PBS–check out how brilliantly he speaks:

 

 

Dave Douglas and I at Blues Alley, Washington, DC (November 13, 2012)

Dave Douglas and me at Blues Alley, Washington, DC (November 13, 2012)

 

 

3. Dave Douglas. Very original voice in jazz today. Great musician.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
4. Ryan Kisor. Great jazz trumpeter, sideman and band leader. Here’s a video showing some awesome Woodie antique cars with Ryan’s quartet playing.

 

 

4.5. (Okay, I am going to sneak one–or more–into the top ten list) By the way, if you haven’t heard his brother, Justin, you should check him out! Listen to his group’s video of “Nica’s Dream” (around 2’20”). Justin used to be in the U.S. Navy Band Commodores.

 

 

And while I’m on THAT subject, the Commodores’ MU1s Tim Stanley and Jon Barnes are pretty awesome at improv. Just sayin’. Here’s Tim Stanley playing with the Afro Bop Alliance (listen at minute 4).

 

 

5. Jon Faddis. A traditional Dizzy disciple and, incidentally, a high-note master, a pleasure for trumpet players to listen.

 

 

6. Terence Blanchard. Master jazz trumpeter with a wide palette of jazz styles. Maybe I should have placed him higher in the list–after all he’s won 5 Grammys! He has also written a number of soundtracks.

 

7. Avishai Cohen. Gorgeous sound, thoughtful improvisation.

 

 

8. Claudio Roditi. The Brazilian-born, rotary-valve-playing trumpeter is a class act.

 

9. Dominick Farinacci. From Cleveland, this trumpeter sounds fantastic! Here’s a video of him playing Clifford’s solo on “Jordu” (while riding in an RV). Don’t worry, you’ll find a lot of other stuff that is actually Dominick’s.

 

10. Arturo Sandoval. Okay, I’m sorry for putting Arturo in tenth place–behind some punk from Cleveland. But maybe I saved one of the best for last! Here’s a fairly recent video.

 

Tags: Dave Douglas, Jazz Trumpet Players, Wynton Marsalis

28 thoughts on “My Top Ten Jazz Trumpet Players of Today

  1. I was wondering if you could tell me who is playing the trumpet at the opening of this Miley Cyrus song, and if you can identify the player, do you know what album it is from. I used to hear the album all the time when I was living in Eastern Europe, and I miss the music terribly!
    Thank you so much for any help you can provide!
    Kristen

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=szImtyOklcM

    • Thanks for your comment, Wayne. Actually, I’d love to know some of YOUR favorite jazz trumpeters. I view my post not as a final word, but as a starting point. How about a little help?

      • How about Carl Saunders for openers!
        Tom Harrell!!!
        Bobby Shew!!!!
        RU Kidding?
        Miles!
        Clark Terry!
        Dizzy!
        Randy Brecker
        Nicholas Payton
        Thad Jones
        Freddie Hubbard
        Woody Shaw
        Booker Little
        Lee Morgan
        Blue Mitchell
        What about the guy that started it all?????
        LOUIS ARMSTRONG!!!
        Clifford & Fats
        Chuck Findley???
        I mean the list is virtually endless…
        The guys that you mention may be good,
        but how in your right mind ould you forget these legends?????

        • Thanks for this nice list of all-time greats, Rich. Of course I intended only to list my favorite jazz improvisors who are living and playing NOW. Tom Harrell IS number 2 on my list above. I absolutely LOVE his playing! I may have overlooked or purposefully avoided the few other living/playing trumpeters on your list, but, for the most part, the trumpeters on your list will have to wait until a later blog list for the ALL TIME GREATEST JAZZ TRUMPETERS.
          Thanks again, though!

  2. By jazz trumpeters you must mean boring. In your top 5 only Wynton and Faddis are truly great. Arturo of course and Blanchard are great. The only one i know on your list who can do it all is Arturo, like Maynard of course. I have heard Avishai, not too impressive especially when he is playing with someone like Dave Stahl, truly one of the greatest just not many know of him. Stahl like Maynard and Arturo can play anything, and anything well. Upper registers with bravado and clarity, and play in more normal ranges melodic and beautifully like Harry James or Rafael Mendez.

  3. Louis Armstrong. Freddie Hubbard. Lee Morgan. Fats Navarro. Derek Watkins. Chuck Findley. Bobby Shew. James Morrison. Dizzy Gillespie.

    • Great list, Darren. Of course, my original list was supposed to include only living, playing trumpeters of today. Need a new post about the greatest jazz trumpeters of all time.

    • Cynmarie, thanks for your comment. I am kind of in agreement with you–and kind of not. In the mid-90s until his second Grammy in 2002, he was very inspiring. I just heard him a few months ago at Blues Alley in Washington, DC, and I have to admit that he was not up to this standard. He acted very erratic and did not play much. The playing he did was pretty weak. Sad.

      • Thanks for the comments, Dan. Yes Shew is amazing. “Top Ten Lists” have all sorts of problems (like not including some really deserving people). But I am really glad you enjoyed checking out some players you didn’t know about before. There are also Jon Faddis, Ambrose Akinmusire, Trombone Shorty, Christian aTunde Adjuah, and many others that didn’t make it on the list. With this list, however, I was trying to separate out the lead players from the straight ahead jazz players. But, of course, many lead players play great jazz. So, there were difficult decisions!

    • I also adore Chris Botti and Rick Braun and have been playing along with their cds, but I’m looking for others who play the same “contemporary-smooth-jazz” style so I can learn material. Do you have any suggestions?

  4. Any top ten list, of living trumpeters without Wallace Roney isn’t valid in my book. I think Randy Brecker and Nicolas Payton would easily be on my list too. I love Pharez Whitted who I think is underrated.

  5. Very nice start to a fund thread here! I can personally listen to Irvin Mayfield play Mo’ Betta Blues and sip on something for hours on end!

    I got a soft spot for New Orleans own Kermit Ruffin’s as well! My ear palate enjoys many of the past greats. I think you are aiming for a contemporary list of trumpeters, but that is hard to do because like so many great musicians their musical presence and prominence spans decades!!!

  6. @ Stanley,
    I just saw a Trombone Shorty concert here in San Diego a few weeks ago, and it was fantastic! He is a young talent on the rise with the sky as his limit! If you’ve never seen circular breathing done in person a Shorty show is a must!

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