The trumpet is one of the staple sounds in jazz music. The trumpet’s history spans thousands of years, from an Afro-Asiatic origin, passed on through the Middle Ages in Europe, to what we now widely associate with American jazz music. Early jazz trumpeters started off playing the cornet until the mainstreaming of the trumpet deemed it obsolete. The use of trumpet in early jazz big bands, has a direct connection to the earlier usage in marching bands in New Orleans as a ceremonial instrument, which is most likely what it was used for before being imported into the U.S. The styles of jazz trumpet have changed greatly throughout the years. Compare the video of Clifford Brown below, to that of Wynton Marsalis, to get an aural timeline of the jazz trumpet.

Louis “Satchmo” Armstrong

Joe “King” Oliver (1885-1938)

(Baby Dodds, Louis Armstrong, Kid Ory…)

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King Oliver is was named “King” by the venerable Kid Ory, because of his spectacular musical ability on trumpet. Oliver began with the trombone, switched to cornet, and finally found the trumpet at age 20. Oliver left up north after WWI, and imported jazz to Chicago where he lead the Creole Jazz Band, and made a name for a young Louis Armstrong, who followed in his footsteps.

Louis “Satchmo” Armstrong (1901-1971)

(King Oliver, Fletcher Henderson, Ella Fitzgerald…)

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Louis Armstrong received his biggest break as King Oliver’s protege. Like Oliver, Armstrong also started off as a cornet player. He also had a breakthrough stint with the Fate Marable Riverboat Band, which imported jazz to major cities north of New Orleans. Armstrong is known for his incredible charisma on the trumpet, his musical prowess, and his pioneering nature, which transformed not only the way that musicians played the trumpet, but also his unique scatting and singing style.

Roy “Little Jazz” Eldridge (1911-1989)

(Gene Krupa, Fletcher Henderson, Billie Holiday…)

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Roy Eldridge would ultimately pave the way for bebop, strongly influencing his predecessor Dizzy Gillespie to spawn off of his sound and create a new subgenre.

Dizzie Gillespie (1917-1993)

(Cab Calloway, Charlie Parker, Sarah Vaughan…)

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Gillespie collaborated extensively with Charlie Parker after being thrown out of Cab Calloway’s band, and pioneered with Parker the beginnings of bebop. Throughout his life, he vehemently followed his creativity and changed the genre a few times, including his love affair with Afro-Latin music.

Theodore “Fats” Navarro (1923-1950)

(Billy Eckstine, Bud Powell, Charlie Parker…)

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* Fats Navarro was one of the foremost Bebop trumpeters at the height of the subgenre simultaneous to the rise of Dizzy Gillespie, but Heroine and TB cut his life short at 26. Despite the tragic and premature end to his life, he still left a marked impression on the history of jazz music.

Miles Davis (1926-1991)

(Billy Eckstine, Charlie Parker, Gil Evans…)

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The foremost innovator in the jazz world, Miles Davis brought new styles and renewed relevance to jazz every few years. Studying under Charlie Parker, collaborating with Gil Evans, pioneering “fusion”, and dabbling with pop and hip-hop before his death, Davis was a ferocious trumpeter, and one of the most compelling figures in American music.

Chesney Henry “Chet” Baker Jr. (1929-1988)

(Charlie Parker, Stan Getz, Gerry Mulligan…)

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* Chet was a rising star as both a trumpeter with Charlie Parker, and later as a vocalist. He survived much adversity, and tried to make a comeback after some severe health problems, but is better known in his earlier years as a Jazz Messenger and by playing with Gerry Mulligan.

Clifford Brown (1930-1956)

(Chris Powell, Art Blakey, Max Roach…)

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* Though Brown only has 4 years of recordings to his name, before he was fatally killed in a car accident, he would be one of the most influential jazz trumpeters in history, changing the trajectory for many trumpeters after him including Lee Morgan and Freddie Hubbard.

Donald Byrd (1932-present)

(Sonny Rollins, Pepper Adams, Art Blakey, Max Roach…)

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* Byrd was one of the few successful jazz trumpeters who could navigate the traditions of his peers during the bebop era, as well as being a contemporary pop artist. He was able to bring funk, soul, and hip-hop into jazz, as vice versa.

Lee Morgan (1938-1972)

(Hank Mobley, John Coltrane, Art Blakey…)

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* Morgan was to be Clifford Brown’s successor after Brown was killed in a car accident. He played as one of Art Blakey’s jazz messengers, and had large commercial success as a band leader. He like his mentor, died a premature death by being murdered by his girlfriend.

Freddie Hubbard (1938-2008)

(Eric Dolphy, Art Blakey, John Coltrane, Ornette Coleman…)

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* Hubbard played with almost all of the great legends out of the bop era, but couldn’t really get hip with free jazz as that community diverged. He tried his hand at “fusion” but came back to what he knew best, a master at playing a wild range of flowery notes in the true bop tradition.

Woody Shaw (1944-1989)

(Horace Silver, McCoy Tyner, Freddie Hubbard, Art Blakey)

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“Woody added to the vocabulary of the trumpet. He had a real concept about the organization of group music that often utilized many different and complex harmonic progressions. He was very serious, disciplined and respectful towards jazz. His whole approach influenced me tremendously.” -Wynton Marsalis

Wynton Marsalis (1961-present)

(Art Blakey, Tony Williams, Herbie Hancock…)

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* As a young jazz virtuoso, Marsalis took his musicianship to a level of high scholarship, and helped establish jazz as a academically sought subject. His voice in Ken Burns’ series, as well as being the Artistic Director at Jazz at Lincoln Center, has made him an authority in jazz history.

Roy Hargrove (1969-present)

(Joe Henderson, Branford Marsalis, Christian McBride, D’Angelo…)

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* Hargrove is one of the foremost jazz leaders bridging the gap between jazz and hip-hop music. As the bandleader for the RH Factor, a critically acclaimed multi-genre group featuring the brightest young musicians today, Hargrove has changed the significance of the trumpet in the modern landscape.

Nicholas Payton (1973-present)

(Wynton Marsalis, Joe Henderson, Joshua Redman…)

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* The ferocious playing of Payton sets him on the stage as the predecessor of the aforementioned jazz greats. Payton is continuing the tradition of great jazz trumpeters, while continuing to push the envelope and keeping jazz relevant.

Obviously we are not able to list every single musician of all time but please leave comments about musicians that deserve to be highlighted.




3 Replies to "Evolution of the Instrument: Trumpet"
April 22, 2011 at 8:01 pm

Wow this was so amazing You got it right . I love the timeline it is so correct with outstanding clips as well ….. job Well done !

April 22, 2011 at 8:24 pm

It may be wise to consult with living jazz musicians, particularly trumpeters, to get a well-rounded perspective on the history of the instrument. You may want to interview 4 or 5 trumpet players and see who they identify. People like Wallace Roney, Terence Blanchard and others are very conversant in the history of the instrument and understand how it evolved over time. They’ve also worked in many of the important bands so they understand what it is to be part of the lineage. Could be an interesting project. Best of luck. -WSIII

Here are a few trumpeters whose names may be relevant to a discussion on the “evolution” of the trumpet in jazz:

King Oliver
Jabbo Smith
Roy Eldridge
Clark Terry
Harry “Sweets” Edison
Fats Navarro
Howard McGhee
Kenny Dorham
Art Farmer
Bill Hardman
Carmel Jones
Thad Jones
Eddie Henderson
Charles Tolliver
Wallace Roney
et al …

May 21, 2011 at 4:24 pm

Love this … but where is the uber talented Russell Gunn?

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