The ten best trumpeters of all time

Categories: Jazz, Lists

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Like sax players, any discussion of the best trumpeters is likely to involve some of the same names. And that's not happenstance. It's because the playing of those greats is so distinctive, prodigious and influential that it truly stands out among countless other horn players. Keep reading for a rundown of the ten best trumpeters of all time.

See also: The ten best saxophonists of all time

10. Art Farmer
Trumpeter and flugelhorn player Art Farmer started out playing bop with Horace Silver, Sonny Rollins, Gerry Mulligan and Gigi Gryce throughout the '50s, but the warm toned Farmer later branched out beyond bop. Since he was versed in various styles, he was hired by arrangers like George Russell and Quincy Jones. Farmer co-led the Jazztet in 1959, and with tenor man Benny Golson, and the band's 1960 release Meet the Jazztet was a brilliant disc. As a leader, Farmer released some great albums, including 1963's Live at the Half-Note, which also features guitarist Jim Hall.

9. Chet Baker
With a warm and relaxed tone, trumpeter Chet Baker was chief player in West Coast cool jazz of the early and mid '50s, when he recorded some great albums for Pacific Jazz, including Chet Baker Sings, which also showcased his wispy vocals, and Chet Baker & Crew, one of the many fine discs he made with tenor player Phil Urso (who lived in Denver in the '90s and passed away here five years ago). While Baker released a number of fine albums early in his career, he was quite prolific in the ten years leading up to his death in Amsterdam in 1988.

8. Lee Morgan
A major force in hard bop, Lee Morgan got his start in Dizzy Gillespie's big band when he was eighteen and went on to record on John Coltrane's epic 1957 album, Blue Train, as well a number of discs with Hank Mobley and Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers. As a leader, Morgan released some solid albums throughout the late '50s and '60s, including his most famous, The Sidewinder, Search for the New Land and Cornbread. The three-disc Live at the Lighthouse, recorded in 1970, is one of Morgan's stronger efforts later in his short life, as he was shot (and later died) nearly two years later at the age of 33 while playing a gig at an East Village jazz club by his common-life wife Helen More.

7. Donald Byrd
While Donald Byrd released some damn fine hard bop albums on Blue Note in the late '50s and early '60s, like Byrd in Hand, Fuego and the outstanding A New Perspective, the trumpeter later went on to delve into funk and soul jazz throughout the '70s, like Black Byrd and Places and Spaces. As a sideman, Byrd also performed and recorded with a number of legendary players like Sonny Rollins, Eric Dolphy, Jackie McLean, Herbie Hancock and Wes Montgomery. In the early '90s, rapper Guru, of Gang Starr fame, tapped Byrd to play on Jazzmatazz, Vol. 1, one of the first discs to fuse live jazz and hip-hop, as well as its followup, Jazzmatazz, Vol. 2: The New Reality.

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22 comments
intrepidpooch
intrepidpooch

Great list, the one change I would make is replace Art Farmer with Woody Shaw.  Art was definitely one of the true greats but Woody's status as the last true innovator of the jazz trumpet should guarantee him a spot on this list.

jc.rhys
jc.rhys

In my opinion, Hubbard's rendering of "Blue Moon" in the "Jazz Messengers" album "Three Blind Mice" is a master piece.

Steve Woodard
Steve Woodard

Thought Wynton Marsalis would be on this list. Tough to narrow to just 10.

Sean Gruno
Sean Gruno

And I'm surprised that Ron Miles isn't in here.

Justin Burns
Justin Burns

Surprised that Phil Driscoll didn't make the list.

Matt Hannan
Matt Hannan

I agree with Bob, Maynard Ferguson should be on that list.

geoffman11
geoffman11

Johnny Do Right sits blocks from the Capitol. He plays his horn for the cash he can collect from passersby. He is very good at what he does.




http://youtu.be/TzEey0j1OhU

dvfielder
dvfielder

I was prepared to have issues with this list, but you guys pretty much nailed it!  However, I would replace Chet Baker with Roy Eldridge.

mmadi10699
mmadi10699

Doc Severinson, Maynard Ferguson, and Harry James didn't make the list?  What? 

dcrane1
dcrane1

I'd leave Chet Baker and Fats Navarro off the list.  Chet didn't add that much new to the jazz lexicon and Fats came and went too fast.  The same could be said of Booker Little although I'd argue his voice was more unique than Fats. 

My picks to replace them: Roy Eldridge and Woody Shaw.  

Without Roy, no Dizzy.  Roy's also significant for being the first black trumpet player of note in an otherwise white band: Gene Krupa's.

Woody Shaw advanced the art of jazz trumpet so much that few have caught up.  With the recent Mosaic boxed set of his 1970's recordings for the Muse label and last year's boxed set of his late 1970's-early 1980's dates for Columbia, there has never been a better time to revisit (or hear for the first time) his works as a leader.  For a good intro to Woody, track down organist Larry Young's 1965 Blue Note recording Unity.

veritasmagnum
veritasmagnum

My friend Ron. He does something most players don't do. He reveals his inner self through the horn. 

rastajaz
rastajaz

@dcrane1  You know your trumpet players!  I have to totally agree with you.  Although Fat's was a monster and he does belong.  I would replace Art Farmer with Thad Jones. Chet Baker is the Bill Evans (pianist) of the trumpet and doesn't belong on this list.  Booker Little would have made my list as well as Wynton (at (#11) but you can only have 10. Arturo will probably make the list posthumously.  Let's hope he has many year before that happen.  The biggest tragedy I see is the absence of Clark Terry.(unfortunately, one gets more accolades after death)

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