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.


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93 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!

    • 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?
        Clark Terry!
        Randy Brecker
        Nicholas Payton
        Thad Jones
        Freddie Hubbard
        Woody Shaw
        Booker Little
        Lee Morgan
        Blue Mitchell
        What about the guy that started it all?????
        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!

      • 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..

  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.

    • 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?

      • 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

  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.

      • 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.

      • 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!

  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!

  7. 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 !

  8. 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…

    • 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.

  9. 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.

    • 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.

    • 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.

    • 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.

  10. 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.

  11. 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.

  12. 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)

  13. 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.)

  14. 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….

  15. 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!

    • 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!

  16. 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.

  17. 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.

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

  19. 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)

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