My top ten list of the greatest Rock/Pop trumpet players

Tower of Power Horn Section
Tower of Power Horns around mid-2000s (Adolfo Acosta and Mike Bogart, trumpet)

This was a fun list to work on, because the world of Rock, Pop and other commercial genres has usually been far removed from the trumpet realm. But there have been some fantastic trumpet players over the years who have captured the attention of popular music audiences. We must not forget that jazz, at one time, was THE popular music, and, because of this, Louis Armstrong really deserves to be at the top of this list. Instead, I want to focus on Rock and pop music from the 1960s and onward. Some bands, like the Beatles (British trumpeter David Mason was the piccolo trumpet soloist on “Penny Lane”), worked with trumpeters from time to time, while other bands, like Earth, Wind and Fire, always had trumpets. Here is my list of the greatest of these trumpeters.

Lew Soloff
Lew Soloff

 1. Lew Soloff. Deeply entrenched in the jazz world, Soloff nevertheless won a Grammy while playing on Blood, Sweat and Tears’ famous “Spinning Wheel” among other great tunes during his tenure from 1968 to 1973 with BS&T (Chuck Winfield also played trumpet in the group at this time). Soloff has also collaborated with Tony Bennett, Elvis Costello, Marianne Faithful, Aretha Franklin, Lou Reed, Frank Sinatra, Paul Simon and Barbra Streisand. ll

Speaking of Blood, Sweat & Tears, the band that has blended rock and jazz for more than four decades, here’s a list of all the trumpeters that have played in the band: Randy Brecker and Jerry Weiss (1967-68); Lew Soloff (1967-74); Chuck Winfield (1968-73); Tom Malone (1973); John Madrid (1973-74); Tony Klatka (1974-78); Joe Giorgianni (1974-75); Forrest Buchtell (1975-77); Michael Lawrence (1977); Chris Albert (1977-78); Bruce Cassidy (1979-80); Mic Gillette (1980-81); Tim Oimette (1984-85); Steve Guttman (1985-2005); Teddy Mulet (trombone from 1985-86 and trumpet from 2005-2013); Barry Daniellian (1985-86 and 2013-14); Jerry Sokolov (1987-94); Craig Johnson (1994-98); Jon Owens (1998-2000); Dave Stahl (fill in, 1995-99); Winston Byrd (fill in, 1998); Joe Mosello (2000-02); Nick Marchione (2002-04); Steve Jankowski (2005-13); Chris Tedesco (fill in, 2006-07); Brian Steel (fill in, 2008), Carl Fischer (current); Trevor Neumann (current).

Here’s a video from 1969. You can see Lew at around 1:22.


2. This entry is not really a single trumpeter—but dedicated to all of the trumpeters of Tower of PowerGreg Adams, who, along with Mic Gillette (who also plays trombone), defined the Tower of Power sound. Both of these Grammy nominees have a very long list of affiliations in the Rock world. Now, Adolfo Acosta is the lead trumpeter in the group.

Here’s a video of “What is Hip” from 1973. Adams is the trumpeter on the left, Gillette is on the right.


3. A “must-include” for this list is the 5-time Grammy Award-winning trumpeter and arranger, Jerry Hey (the Grammys were won through his arranging, but his trumpet and flugelhorn playing are captivating). To get yourself acquainted with some of his arrangements, go to Hey’s section in this L.A. Studio Musicians Tribute Site. You’ll definitely remember Jerry’s 20-second flugelhorn solo on Dan Fogelberg’s 1979 hit “Longer” (solo starts a little after 2:00). 

Here’s a video with an image of a transcription of Hey’s solo on “The Hornet.” 


 4. Robert “Spike” Mickens was mainly known for his association with Kool & The Gang. 

Robert "Spike" Mickens  

I love this tune called “Jungle Boogie.”


 5. Trumpeter and founding member of Chicago, Lee Loughnane, has a great interview in the February, 1998 International Trumpet Guild Journalin this article there is a transcription of Loughnane’s solo on “Ballet for a Girl in Buchannon.” Here’s a video of that 1970 hit. 


Maurice Davis, legendary trumpeter at Motown Records
Maurice Davis–Motown trumpeter, educator, minister

6. Motown great, Maurice Davis, not only recorded over 1,500 songs, but also was a dedicated teacher in Detroit Public Schools for 32 years and at Wayne State University, AND was also an ordained minister and philanthropist. 

Here is Davis soloing on the 1972 “Papa was a Rolling Stone” with The Temptations. 


7. Jazz trumpet great (for example, he started his career in the Count Basie Band of 1968), Oscar Brashear also played with Earth, Wind & Fire throughout the 1970s and into the 80s. 

Here’s Oscar playing on the 1973 classic “Zanzibar”: 


8. But enough of the old guard. Wayne Bergeron is a trumpet great of today–mainly in jazz circles, but also as a sideman for such artists as Beyoncé, Michael Bublé (and others that don’t even have an acute accent in their name!). Known for his high notes, Bergeron has been in high demand in trumpet conferences. Oh, and if you like the lead trumpet playing on the movie The Incredibles, that’s Wayne. 

Here’s a video of Michael Bublé with Wayne blowing lead over the tune “It’s a Beautiful Day.” Wayne is playing the solo at the very end. 


9. U.S. Virgin Islands native, Rashawn Ross, is the amazing trumpeter and arranger with the Dave Matthews Band

Here’s a little excerpt from a Dave Matthews Band live concert in 2009. 


10. Although I could add Wayne Jackson of The Memphis Horns, Randy Brecker (although I think he stands more in the jazz world), and a host of other giants, I will round out my list by being loyal to the U.S. Navy Music program by plugging Mike “Iron Mike” Bogart of the Tower of Power for nine years. Here is a humorous video of “Iron” Mike playing his high notes while he does his gym routine. 


30 responses to “My top ten list of the greatest Rock/Pop trumpet players”

  1. Trumpeter “Iron” Mike Bogart (formerly with TOP — now back with the U.S. Navy) was a good neighbor and a friend. Man, he has chops! My oldest son still has the mouthpiece he gave him. Good memories…

  2. John Bestul Avatar
    John Bestul

    No Bill Chase? Really?

    1. John Hulburt Avatar
      John Hulburt

      My thoughts exactly…

    2. Straight up the best ever…”Open Up Wide” still kills me. Any one of the “ten” would sell their soul to play like that. (including me…)

    3. Pure Music (Chase 1974) was the first jazz album I bought. My Dad introduced me to jazz by taking me to private Big Band concerts at a small local venue. Acts included Count Basie, Buddy Rich, & Stan Kenton. We also hung out at the original (& later iterations) of the Blue Wisp listening to the great John Von Ohlen.

    4. David A Sitzes Avatar
      David A Sitzes

      Bill Chase was the greatest rock trumpet player, bar none. Omission invalidates the list imo.

  3. Macey "Blue" Dotyoi Avatar
    Macey “Blue” Dotyoi

    How about some Stevie Wonder???

    1. Michael Perri Avatar
      Michael Perri

      Michael Perri
      Trumpet player for Steve Wonder excellent player.

  4. I know this thread is dated. But just want to say: The big miss in this list is BILL CHASE!!

    1. Joe Bradley Avatar
      Joe Bradley


  5. Chase managed to get into Ferguson’s big band (his teenage idol) and went on playing with Woody Herman’s Thundering Herd leading the best big band trumpet section I have ever known of. But he wanted (and was encouraged to) go on and do his own thing. Soon the band Chase was set up.

  6. Tommy G Avatar
    Tommy G

    Yep, the obvious omission is Chase…so obvious, it raises questions on how astute is the person who put this list together…sorry, just sayin’….

  7. Patrick Collins Avatar
    Patrick Collins

    In 2009-2011 I had the great privilege of playing next to Maurice Davis at Wayne state. Now I had no idea at the time…this guy limps in on a cane. coughing into a hanky, he talks about teaching music to youngsters. I thought,man, I dont have much stamina in the upper register. This other guy is a freshman, and this Maurice guy on lead can’t even breath.
    Could not have been more wrong. Now let me just name drop, ive been to every Detroit jazz fest for the last decade or so. Ive heard Wynton and Lincoln center, tower of power, big boss brass, the mingus big band, arturo. I’ve never heard anyone blast like this….I mean, completely wail effortlessly into the stratosphere.
    We played satin doll. He belts out the E above high C with so much power and intensity I dropped my horn. On” in a mellow tone” he played a G above C. my hairs are standing up just thinking about it. Great man, good family man

  8. Ruel Pate Avatar
    Ruel Pate

    How about the great Lee Thornburg. Lead with Tower of Power, Member of Super Tramp. Subbed with Chicago, when Lee Locnahn,(sp),was ill. Plus, Mr. Thornburg has recorded with many Name Artists. Great trumpet player.

  9. Phoenix Avatar

    I’m always confused with Blood, Sweat and Tears – Spinning Wheel. Some sites credit Alan Rubin with playing on the song (Album version at least) but other sites such as this, Lew Soloff is credited and on others Chuck Winfield is also credited as playing on the single release of the song.

    Probably the least confusing article about it is the wikipedia entry which doesnt mention Lew at all…… Any ideas anyone?

    1. MikeyC. Avatar

      I went to the same Chuck(Monessen High School – Monessen,PA.)…it was Chuck…take my word.

      1. ChristopherC Avatar

        Sorry. 100% it was Lew Soloff.

        1. ChristopherC Avatar

          … who played the solo on “Spinning Wheel.” Chuck Winfield missed that session and Alan Rubin subbed for Chuck.

  10. MikeyC. Avatar

    The J.B’s…. James Brown’s band led by Joe Collier on trumpet(?)

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  12. No one remembers their individual names but The Ides of March horn section on “Vehicle” should be mentioned as some of the best horn work in rock!

  13. Philip Wechter Avatar
    Philip Wechter

    for my money, lee from Chicago should be #1. He is like a good wine, getting better with age. He makes it look all so easy, even in the high register.The man still takes lessons, even at 70+ years old. He is my inspiration to continue to play, even though I just turned 70.

    1. Rich Pulin Avatar
      Rich Pulin

      yet, on #17 Gary Grant was brought in to play the high parts…

  14. This list is mostly comprised of jazz guys who played on pop albums. Bill Chase is indeed a serious omission, but for my money on this list,
    the late great Lew Soloff, whose post BS&T career included hundreds of gigs and recordings in all genres, takes top honors. Another name missing from this list is Grammy Award winner Randy Brecker. Arguably one of the best jazz trumpet players in the nearly 50 years since his debut on the inaugural album of BS&T, he has also played in hundreds of rock, pop and fusion settings, including Yoko Ono, Todd Rundgren, Billy Cobham, and Larry Coryell’s Eleventh House.

  15. Rich Pulin Avatar
    Rich Pulin

    You guys (everyone!) forgot perhaps the greatest 2 led players, not to mention the busiest and wealthiest LA Studio Guys……Chuck Findley & Gary Grant! Can I get an amen??

  16. Rich Pulin Avatar
    Rich Pulin

    Try lead players…..oops….

  17. Marcus Thomas Avatar
    Marcus Thomas

    WOW !!! Yes there all fantastic celebrity trumpet players to be put in the top 10 . I’m guessing You all just put John Thomas , the most elite Lead trumpet player of our time by himself , on top , unmatched in league by him self ? John Thomas, who was Count Basie, Chick Korea ,James Brown,, Woody Herman and of course the late Ray Charles lead trumpet players ,just to name a few !Starting in the early 70s that fought over John to play lead Trumpet for them ! Johns resume is by far unmatched and I mean unmatched if you would like your minds blown ! Jazz musicians around the world have studied and been taught by John. Not to mention Johns father , Don Thomas was one of the greatest lead jazz trumpet players of our time as well ! Seeing Johns my uncle as is Don Was my grandfather i may be a little biased but facts are the facts right! I couldn’t help but comment on this as it seems some one didn’t do there home work:) I’m am one of the proudest nephews and have had the opportunity to have seen them play through out my life :)Hearing either of them still gives me goose bumps every time I hear them play ! Was just crazy to me until I realized every one already knew he was above the competition with this list:) I believe his web site is even Lead trumpet how do you get that one lol . if any of you need him for a gig . He still loves to play gigs and says he is playing better than he ever has in his long career !! John Thomas is an Icon to the trumpet players and has been for a long time so please correct the list and push a celebrity or two down the list :))) He’s gona be mad at me if he sees this but I just had to correct the record people! Facts are the fact and it’s indisputable lol 🙂 Marcus Thomas

  18. Marcus Thomas Avatar
    Marcus Thomas

    Ok I sincerely apologize to Stanley , I really didn’t read the most important part the beginning of the article where you said the best rock/pop trumpets! Guessing my eyes are shot! I would love to see the jazz list though . Thank you

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