15 Most Famous Jazz Trumpet Players You Should Know

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Do you love the sound of a jazz trumpet? The trumpet has a rich history, and it’s one of the most versatile instruments in any jazz ensemble. If so, you should know who some of the most influential jazz trumpeters are and learn about their influence on older and newer genres. 

In this post, we’re going to look at 15 of the most famous jazz trumpet players and how they have influenced the world of jazz.

1. Louis Armstrong

One of the most famous trumpet players of all time, Louis Armstrong had a rough childhood, and he started playing music after being arrested for firing a gun into the air.

A cornet player named King Oliver became a mentor to Armstrong and he began subbing in for Oliver before taking over for him in a local band.

Soon after, he moved from New Orleans to Chicago to play with Oliver with brief spells of work in New York City but soon moved back to Chicago.

Around that time, Armstrong started singing on his recordings, and his career kept growing with huge hits such as “What a Wonderful World” and “We Have All the Time in the World.”

2. Miles Davis

Grammy winner Miles Davis grew up outside of Chicago and started learning the trumpet at age 13.

Years later, he started playing music professionally with jazz greats like Charlie Parker and fellow jazz trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie.

Davis studied at the Institute of Musical Art, now known as The Juilliard School. However, he dropped out of school a year later to play full-time.

A few years later, he started working as a band leader and went on to release some of the most iconic jazz albums, including Birth Of The Cool, Kind Of Blue, Sketches Of Spain, Miles Ahead, and many more.

Davis dealt with heroin addiction but made a remarkable comeback and released multiple albums throughout the rest of his career.

3. Wynton Marsalis

Wynton Marsalis showed his love and skill for music early on. He started performing at age 14 and started his own band when he was 20.

Marsalis has worked to help people remember jazz musicians from earlier generations. Because of him, record companies have reissued many old jazz catalogs.

Also a composer, Marsalis has composed and performed all types of jazz music. He’s also a performer and of classical music.

That makes Marsalis an excellent role model for other crossover trumpet players.

He’s currently the only musician to ever earn a Grammy for both classical and jazz music.

4. Dizzy Gillespie

Along with Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie developed the style we know as bebop, a style of jazz from the 1940s.

Many musicians know him for his trumpet, which had a unique angle to the bell. Gillespie also played with “swollen” cheeks, puffing his cheeks out as he performed.

He worked with some musical greats, including Duke Ellington and Ella Fitzgerald. Gillespie also composed some famous jazz songs, including A Night in Tunisia.

He played with many swing bands and later formed his own groups. Throughout his career, he recorded multiple albums, including one as a tribute to Duke Ellington.

5. Freddie Hubbard

Freddie Hubbard is an American jazz trumpeter, composer and bandleader. He was one of the most influential trumpet players in both the hard bop and post-bop sub genres of jazz.

Born in Indiana in 1938, he grew up playing the trumpet and the mellophone in high school. But, it wasn’t until the 1960s that he began performing with John Coltrane and his career began to take off.

In the 1970s, Hubbard recorded multiple albums. He started a group later on, and they had the chance to play in Europe and the United States. Hubbard was on plenty of recordings as a bandleader or a sideman during his career.

The National Endowment for the Arts gave Hubbard the NEA Jazz Masters Award, a high honor for jazz musicians.

6. Clifford Brown

Despite his short life, Clifford Brown is still one of the greatest jazz trumpeters of the 20th century.

He grew up in a musical family and performed in a vocal group with his brothers. But by age 10, Brown fell in love with the trumpet.

He met with Dizzy Gillespie, and Gillespie encouraged Brown to focus on music rather than math, which he had studied earlier.

Brown recorded multiple songs and albums as either a sideman or bandleader. He was also a composer, and songs like Joy Spring and Sandu have become jazz standards.

Unfortunately, Brown died on his way to a performance in Chicago.

He and Richie Powell (pianist Bud Powell’s younger brother,) rode in a car with Powell’s wife, and she allegedly lost control of the vehicle. The crash killed all three of them.

7. Clora Bryant

Next on our list is female trumpet player Clora Bryant was probably the most famous woman jazz trumpeter. She was the only woman to perform on trumpet with Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie.

Bryant started learning trumpet when one of her older brothers left it at home after joining the military.

She kept playing the trumpet in college, and she joined the all-woman jazz band named the International Sweethearts of Rhythm.

She soon left school to play full-time. While she didn’t record a ton of music, she did appear on TV multiple times. Bryant was lucky enough to have a supportive father, which helped her in her career.

8. Lee Morgan

Lee Morgan was a well-known jazz trumpeter who focused on hard bop. After playing the vibraphone and saxophone, Morgan started on the trumpet.

He took a few lessons with Clifford Brown, one of his biggest influences. Later on, Morgan started recording and created a lot of recordings throughout his life.

He started composing and playing as a soloist in the 1950s. The 1960s saw 20 new recordings from Morgan, and he collaborated with various other musicians.

Sadly, he passed away after his wife shot him, and it took the ambulance too long to get there to save him.

9. Chet Baker

Chet Baker was a popular trumpeter and singer who grew up around music. His father played guitar professionally, and his mother played piano outside of her work at a factory.

Baker started by singing in a church choir, and his father gave him a trombone before realizing it was too big.

When he joined the army, Baker played in an army band. Later on, he played with musicians including Stan Getz, Charlie Parker, and Gerry Mulligan.

He, unfortunately, went to jail for drug possession. Luckily, he made a comeback, and he started performing almost exclusively in Europe.

10. Andrea Motis

Andrea Motis, a young woman from Spain, is a fantastic jazz trumpet player. She’s already played on multiple albums and has recently made her solo debut.

Motis has worked with various musicians, including tenor sax player Joel Frahm. She started playing the trumpet when she was just seven years old.

A few years later, she started learning jazz, and she began playing with the bassist Joan Chamorro as a teenager.

Motis has also started composing and writing some songs on her debut album. It will be exciting to see where her career will lead in the future.

11. Arturo Sandoval

Arturo Sandoval is an excellent Cuban-American jazz trumpet player. While he started by playing classical trumpet, his love for jazz soon took over.

He has recorded with artists including Dizzy Gillespie, Josh Groban, and others in between.

Sandoval can play a lot of different genres and has had a successful career because of that. The trumpet player has won 10 Grammy Awards as well as an Emmy.

He has even composed some music, including a classical concerto for the trumpet. In 2013, he received the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

12. Clark Terry

Clark Terry had a long career and achieved a lot in that time. He performed on over 900 recordings, and he played with the likes of Ella Fitzgerald, Quincy Jones, and Billie Holiday.

Terry also wrote over 200 jazz compositions, and he developed a system of circular breathing for brass and woodwind players.

Additionally, Clark was a Jazz Ambassador who participated in African and Middle Eastern tours. He performed throughout the world, drawing in students from all over.

Terry also received the 2010 Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award and three other Grammy nominations.

13. Harry James

Harry James was another trumpet player known primarily as a bandleader for a prominent jazz band.

The band featured Frank Sinatra as a vocalist, and the singer worked closely with James for seven months. This band was active from 1930 through 1983, only taking a short break in 1947. 

James later worked with Doris Day on a soundtrack for the movie Young Man with a Horn. Throughout his career, James took inspiration from Louis Armstrong before a brief switch to focusing on pop, though he went back to jazz later on.

He had an incredible tone on the trumpet and possessed masterful technique.

14. Ingrid Jensen

Ingrid Jensen is a Canadian jazz trumpet player who studied at Berklee College of Music. She briefly taught in Europe in her 20s but returned to North America to perform in multiple jazz orchestras.

Jensen has since started a quintet, quartet, and trio, and she also plays as a soloist. Her passion for music education lives on, and she teaches at Purchase College. She also teaches master classes and at various jazz festivals around the world.

Her sister Christine is a saxophonist, and the two have collaborated on multiple occasions.

15. Bix Beiderbecke

His parents named him Leon, but he went by his nickname, Bix Beiderbecke. Bix gained fame as a jazz soloist during the 1920s thanks to his lyrical sound and approach.

Although technically a cornet player, Bix played on many recordings and even composed some music during his short career.

He grew up in a musical household and started playing the piano when he was just two years old.

He taught himself how to play the cornet in his teens and soon began performing professionally in local jazz groups.

Sadly, his career and life ended too early when he died from lobar pneumonia (officially) or edema of the brain (unofficially).

Summing up Our List of The Greatest Jazz Trumpeters

There have been many great jazz trumpet players over the years.

Whether you’re a trumpet player or love listening to jazz, you can learn from the greats of years past and follow current jazz musicians.

Keep all of the trumpeters on this list in mind when looking for jazz recordings.

Soon enough, you may be able to replicate their sounds and have a similar career of your own.

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Written by Peter Yarde Martin
Peter Yarde Martin is a freelance composer, musician and educator based in London. He studied music at Cambridge University and now works with many top professional ensembles and soloists in the UK and abroad.