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.

 


Comments

93 responses to “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

    1. MAURICIO BADILLO Avatar
      MAURICIO BADILLO

      I STILL LIKE CRISS BOTTI I THINKS IS PRETTY GOOD. AND OF COURSE MILES FOREVER AND EVER

      1. Paolo Fresu is my main man

      2. Philskie Avatar
        Philskie

        With you brother on Chris – also love Alison Balsom-wicked trumpet and enjoy able to watch

      3. Betty J Smith Avatar
        Betty J Smith

        Totally agree with you on Chris Botti and Miles Davis! Was surprised they were not on the list.

  2. Not sure what it is you do but knowing jazz trumpeters is not it.

    1. 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?

      1. Kennedy_Sabin Avatar
        Kennedy_Sabin

        Wayne Bergeron, but i would say he at his best in a big band setting.

        1. Agreed–one of our greatest trumpeters at this time!

        2. Matteo Avatar
          Matteo

          Wayne for sure. Amazing chops. Elite lead player and studio musician.

      2. 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?????

        1. 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!

          1. WILLIAM GAMAGE Avatar
            WILLIAM GAMAGE

            Miles Davis is not listed. You have got to be kidding.

          2. William, remember that this post was about trumpeters of today. I didn’t discuss dead jazz trumpeters.

        2. MAURICIO BADILLO Avatar
          MAURICIO BADILLO

          of course the Mozart from the 20th Century the very best MILES DAVIS

    2. Perhaps you would love to enlighten us on what your idea of great jazz trumpeters are

    3. Sparky Coleman Avatar
      Sparky Coleman

      How incredibly rude and unnecessary, arrogant and demeaning. Hope you aren’t at any jazz club I go to.

      1. Gunnar Kil Avatar
        Gunnar Kil

        I actually appreciated the post and see no arrogance..
        Music is always a debate for some reason.
        There may be some kid in a highschool band outblowing all these cats somewhere..
        I would like to know what solo we would show an alien representing the best trumpet performance on earth..

  3. 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.

    1. O man you are speaking of screamers not jazz trumpet players. And if you think Avishai is impressive it’s sad . The heading says ‘my top 10 JAZZ trumpeters TODAY’ Why aren’t y’all getting that?

      1. Yours is a great list Stan.
        Here’s mine.
        Wynton Marsalis
        Roy Hargrove
        Ryan Kisor
        Marcus Printup
        Thomas Fryland ( Norwegian)
        Claudio Roditti
        Nicholas Payton ( his earlier albums)
        Ingrid Jensen
        Hikari Ichihara ( female, Japan )
        Arturo Sandoval

        Drat! most of my real favorites are dead

  4. Darren Lloyd Avatar
    Darren Lloyd

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

    1. Stanley Avatar
      Stanley

      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.

  5. Cynmarie Avatar
    Cynmarie

    What about Roy Hargrove? Better than most on your list.

    1. Stanley Avatar
      Stanley

      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.

      1. I love Roy Hargrove’s playing on recordings, but when I saw him live recently he was stoned out of his mind and was extremely unimpressive. It was very disappointing. I like your list. What about Brian Lynch? He’s incredible.

  6. Peter van Blanken Avatar
    Peter van Blanken

    What to think about Paolo Fresu. Check his cd Mare Nostrum

    1. Stanley Avatar
      Stanley

      Peter, thanks for mentioning Paolo. I had never heard him before. Just listening this morning and enjoying. He seems to excel at slow tempos. Here is a nice video put out by NPR with pianist Omar Sosa and Paolo: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RJMQkye_YTw

      1. Robert CROSS Avatar
        Robert CROSS

        I liked him alongside Richard Galliano and see that he plays Flugelhorn.

  7. Bobby Shew is still around … and the previous comment about Roy Hargrove is valid.

    1. Oh … Wayne Bergeron is pretty good too 🙂

      1. Yes, Wayne can play jazz, sure, but he’s a lot better known for upper register lead and scream work!
        Ahhhhhh!

    2. Thanks for this list. It introduced me to some new, solid players.

      1. Stanley Avatar
        Stanley

        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!

  8. Jean McKay Avatar
    Jean McKay

    Great Site! I adore Chris Boti and Rick Braun!!

    1. Yes they are good trumpet players, but don’t compare with my list posted!

    2. Phil from Alaska Avatar
      Phil from Alaska

      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?

      1. Try Till Brönner. Some of his stuff is quite smooth and he’s also an incredible improviser.

      2. Lin Rountree is pretty good too. Chris Botti and Rick Braun are favorites of mine as is the seemingly ageless Herb Alpert.

    3. Vince Avatar
      Vince

      Both of these guys are on my favorite list. I play their songs often. Love them both!!

    4. Vince Zopel Avatar
      Vince Zopel

      Both of these guys are on my favorite list. I play their songs often. Love them both!!

  9. Charles Thompson Avatar
    Charles Thompson

    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.

  10. Malachi Walker Avatar
    Malachi Walker

    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!!!

  11. Malachi Walker Avatar
    Malachi Walker

    @ 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!

  12. Ask me ANYTHING about jazz!

  13. One that note (B#, C?)I’d like to slip a plug in for my new Jazz Radio Program commencing on Saturday October 25th, at 12 noon Pacific USA time live from Las Vegas (BABY!) on the http://www.jazzjuiceradio.net network!
    Week 2 or 3 guest will be the sensational trumpeter, and best friend, Gary Grant!
    Every Saturday at 12 noon Pacific USA, http://www.jazzjuiceradio.net
    CU THERE!

    1. Thanks again, Rich!

  14. Rick Braun is the best trumpet player in the history of jazz. If you don’t believe it, just listen to his piece ” missing in Venice “. Absolutely breathtaking !

  15. Geez, people. Stop criticizing. If you disagree with the original list, get your own! I like the list, but mine would have Brian Lynch, Alex Sipiagin, Jeremy Pelt, Ambrose Akinmusire…

    1. Stanley Avatar
      Stanley

      Thanks for the comment, Erik. The best thing about posting a list like this top ten in living jazz trumpeters, is that I get fabulous recommendations from people like you. I just listened (for the first time–I’m ashamed to say!) Brian Lynch, Alex Sipiagin, and Jeremy Pelt. They all sound fantastic.
      I have already heard a number of things from Ambrose Akinmusire, for whom I still have a great liking. He seems to embrace great tone, originality, tunefulness, and the feeling that he’s really playing what he HEARS in his mind.

  16. Paulina Avatar
    Paulina

    I’d add Mr. Tomasz Stańko to this list. Less known i US but a first class start in Europe:

    http://culture.pl/en/article/sharp-sounds-and-dirty-quotes-from-tomasz-stanko

  17. Tom Brown Avatar
    Tom Brown

    I really enjoyed your list. I have been seriously getting into jazz over the last year. My collection so far is primarily the old-time greats, such as Freddie Hubbard, Miles Davis, Coltrane, Cannonball, Wayne Shorter, Lee Morgan, etc.

    Your list gave me some ideas about new trumpeters to listen to. A recent musician I have been very impressed with is Christian Scott. I have enjoyed Rewind That, Christian Atunde Adjuah, and his 90 Miles contributions.

    1. Stanley Avatar
      Stanley

      Thanks, Tom. I really, really like Christian, too. One thing that strikes me about him is his originality. I always get the feeling that he is not just re-hashing a worn-out model, but is trying to do something unique.

  18. Great list! What about Ambrose Akiminisure though?

    1. Stanley Avatar
      Stanley

      ari, I LOVE Ambrose! As a small example, I love his “Stablemates” on his “Prelude” album. He and the pianist, Aaron Parks have such a good conversation on this track.

  19. What about James Morrison?

    1. Gary Hooper Avatar
      Gary Hooper

      I have listened to many of the trumpeters listed above throughout my Iong life however, I also believe that JAMES MORRISON is by far the best jazz trumpeter the world has ever had the privilege to listen to.
      He is the master in my mind.

      1. CLAUDIO GNOCCHI Avatar
        CLAUDIO GNOCCHI

        ABSOLUTELY!

  20. Kenny Avatar
    Kenny

    Take a listen to Brian Lynch. He is a remarkable bopper. I compare him a lot to Marsalis’s style. Nice clear tone and he can play some awesome riffs.

  21. Player in Austin Avatar
    Player in Austin

    There is a very nice sounding player here in Austin that I think more people should hear. May not yet be well enough known to compete for the ‘Top Ten’ list … Yet 🙂

    But he’s a wonderful sound to listen to !!

    Keith Fiala

    Some links …
    http://www.keithfiala.com/
    https://www.facebook.com/keith.fiala
    http://www.amazon.com/Keith-Fiala/e/B00J7LFY7C
    https://www.gigmasters.com/jazzband/keithfiala

  22. I didn’t read every comment, but I think Chris Botti should definitely be in the top 10. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BSbchmyXFT4

  23. Check out Bill Mobley. I would put him above some on your list. Also Mason the Brothers.

    1. mason brothers, my bad.

  24. Jon Robinson Avatar
    Jon Robinson

    Stanley ~ Pharez Whitted?

    1. Stanley Avatar
      Stanley

      Yes!

  25. John Fisch Avatar
    John Fisch

    Notable omissions

    Roy Hargrove
    Jeremy Pelt
    Paolo Fresu
    Ambrose Akinmusire

  26. Here’s a few more to consider;
    Byron Stripling
    Sean Jones
    Doc Severinsen
    Scott Wendholt
    Terrell Stafford
    Jack Sheldon
    James Morrison
    Greg Gisbert
    Ira Sullivan

    It really boils down to personal preference. All of the players that have been mentioned have their own unique & individual voice.

    1. Thanks so much, Dan! Great list.

  27. I have a 1941 Martin Committee Handcraft trumpet for sale. 24K gold plated in perfect shape. Just like what Miles Davis played. Fantastic jazz horn. If interested contact me through http://www.trumpetworkspress.com

  28. Stanley, thanks for this list and the orchestral list. Lots of good information about the trumpet on your site!

  29. James Morrison, one of the lesser known, but an actual phenom in sound, power, jazz articulation as well as lead – as well plays all of the instruments including piano–Belongs in the “real artists grouping ” of Faddis, Sandoval and Bergeron Marsalis is very good, leaning more to N.O. Jazz . ( where he cut his teeth)

  30. From those already mentioned, my fav’s are Ambrose, Sipiagin, Bill Mobley.
    Some other cats whom are worthy of checking out are:
    Billy Buss (young T. Monk Inst. guy)
    Jay Thomas (been floating under the radar far a while)
    Arve Henriksen (one of the better of those doing the spacey, etherial stuff)
    Peter Evans (this guy is not human, pretty sure he’s an Area 51 experiment)

    and for my latest discovery!!!
    Steve Fishwick (GB cat. For straight on bebop, he plays circles around the rest. Sounds like what Booker Little might have become if he had lived longer.)

    1. Forgot one. Michael Rodriguez

  31. If any of you have doubts about what I said regarding Steve Fishwick, taste and see:

    https://youtu.be/HkydnC08CN0

  32. Great Seattle player: Thomas Marriot

  33. Another great young player to watch: Tony Glausi

    1. Jonathan–thanks so very much for your comments. Great players deserving of attention!!!!!

  34. CLAUDIO GNOCCHI Avatar
    CLAUDIO GNOCCHI

    In my opinion Jon Fadis is torture to listen to…horrible high-note player….

  35. John Provenzano Avatar
    John Provenzano

    NO WAY you could have left Roy Hargrove and Nicholas Payton off your list. NO WAY!

  36. John, Did you have a father that played trupmpet? My father Harry Cooley had an army band friend, Nelson Provensano, that he said when they were released from the army, they took the train together up north and split in chicago, my father to go home to PA, and Nelson to go to CA to play with Woody Herman….. Occasionally, being a music lover, I look for him….

  37. Shawn Ranjit Avatar
    Shawn Ranjit

    How is Peter Evans not on this list?

    He is insane!

  38. Brian Fisher Avatar
    Brian Fisher

    In considering the best jazz trumpeters of today, you might like to see the performance of Band Corporal Mark Upton (Her Majesty’s Royal Marines Band Service) in March 2019 at the Mountbatten Festival of Music at the Royal Albert Hall, London – AWESOME!! But, after all, he is my nephew!

    1. Mike Simon Avatar
      Mike Simon

      Brian: Loved your post & plug for your nephew! My dad (Cyril Simon) was a pro musician & avid jazz player on the London scene who began his career with the Royal Marine Band in the 1945-7 period. Great training ground!

  39. Amazing trumpet player Jerry Hey. Well know in Hollywood studios. Small group… Seawind. Also a Good friend of Gary Grant. Jerry pays it all and is a clinician on technique.

  40. I’d like to see a list of undiscovered trumpet players. We might get a surprise!

  41. PAOLO FRESU ! Awesome!

  42. I agree a lot with this list. In particular that you mention the recently and sadly deceased Claudio Roditi. I knew him well and can assure that he was completely devoted to this beautiful instrument. For the ones that do not know him it is still possible to check out on youtube.

  43. Check out Dutch Trumpet Master Eric Vloeimans!

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZHjIU2O7X8o

  44. Cara Pollard Avatar
    Cara Pollard

    What about Bria Skonberg, Nadje Noorhuis, Ingrid Jensen and Carol Morgan? Love everyone you mentioned

    1. Cara Pollard Avatar
      Cara Pollard

      And Sean Jones!

  45. I know they’re gone now but my favorites were Don Fagerquist and Kenny Dorham but call me a romantic…

  46. Frank Vanam Avatar
    Frank Vanam

    I like many of the mentions on the lists, but wanted to add Andrea Motis for Jazz category. A good trumpet and great singer!

  47. Eddie Henderson
    Charles Tolliver

    2 of the all-timers in terms of accomplishments and ability to play. It’s not surprising that you missed them, after all you’re one person, but not ONE OTHER person on the MANY comments here mentioned their names. These guys, along w/ Harrell are still jazz royalty releasing great music thru today (Henderson has a new one coming out on Aug 18, ’23 on Smoke Sessions Records and its great (BTW, he’s now 82 and got his big break playing w/ Hancock)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.