12 April 2009

List: 8 Essential Trumpet Solos

As a budding trumpet player in high school, I listened to a ton of trumpet solos. One of the most rudimentary steps in developing your own style as a jazz musician is to listen to as many other musicians as possible and transcribe their solos. By doing so, you improve your own ear and give yourself somewhat of a stylistic guide that serves as a jumping off point for your own voice. Below is a list of eight trumpet solos which any young musician would do well to transcribe. Some of the choices are rather obvious, and others (hopefully) are not as obvious. Feel free to let me know what I missed in the comments, the list is not meant as the be-all-end-all of jazz trumpet, but merely a starting point. The list is in relatively chronological order.
  1. Louis Armstrong, Wild Man Blues, from The Complete Hot Five and Hot Seven Recordings: West End Blues gets all the attention for its divine opening cadenza, but I always preferred Wild Man Blues. Armstrong remains important to modern trumpet players both for his swagger and humanity, and he packs an abundance of both into this solo.
  2. Dizzy Gillespie, Shaw 'nuff, on many compilations: Dizzy opened up new worlds for trumpet players, and his solos represent a primer on improvisation for young trumpet players. His work is an important building block for modern jazz trumpet improvisation.
  3. Miles Davis, Now's The Time, from almost any Charlie Parkercompilation: Certainly there are many important Miles solos to choose from, but I find that learning this solo tends to wean trumpet players off of the habit of playing lots of fast runs and high notes, and gets them to concentrate on melody as well as rhythm and harmony. Miles showed trumpet players during the 1940s that they did not have to play like Dizzy in order to make good jazz, a lesson which is still important.
  4. Lee Morgan, Moanin', from Moanin': This is one of the more obvious choices on the list, but there is a reason for that. Morgan distills the entirety of hard bop into this solo, it swings violently, is drenched in the blues, but also reveals a harmonic sophistication that separated the wheat from the chaff of the genre. I could listen to this solo every day for the rest of my life and not get tired of hearing it. This solo is a necessary primer on hard bop for any young musician, trumpet player or not.
  5. Booker Little, Garvey's Ghost from Percussion Bitter Sweet: Little plays outside the melody and around the changes, giving a new perspective on improvisation that bridges hard bop and free jazz.
  6. Miles Davis, My Funny Valentine, from The Complete Concert 1964: My Funny Valentine + Four and More: Miles at an artistic peak. He transforms the tune with understatement.
  7. Freddie Hubbard, "One Finger Snap," from Empyrean Isles:This is my favorite Hubbard solo. Hubbard had incredible chops, which makes transcribing his solos a physical as well as mental challenge. He compels you to improve your technique.
  8. Wynton Marsalis, Caravan from Marsalis Standard Time ~ Vol.1: Wynton synthesizes a sizable chunk of jazz history in his earlier work, giving a good intro to neobop improvisation.
Now, even considering the fact that there are no solos by Clifford Brown, I think this is a decent place to start. What would you add to or subtract from this list?


Ted said...

The list needs to have some Clifford Brown but selecting which few from his catalogue is tough. I think Joy Spring from Clifford Brown and Max Roach would be my #1 choice, with consideration also going to I'll Remember April from At Basin Street and the underrated ballad of I Don't Stand a Ghost of a Chance with You on Brown and Roach, Inc.

David said...

Clifford ended up being the odd man out among he, Morgan, Hubbard, and Little. I didn't want so many hard bop trumpeters on the list, and was going for variety. My choice of Clifford Brown solos would probably be Once in a While, from Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers' Live at Birdland Vol. 1. Clifford's ballad playing was overshadowed by his chops on uptempo tunes, methinks.

Michael Steinman said...

Emerging from my prehistoric cave, I would add FROM MONDAY ON by Bobby Hackett (with Eddie Condon on Columbia, now on Mosaic); any Roy Eldridge ballad; Bill Coleman's I'M IN THE MOOD FOR LOVE (Paris, c. 1936); any Buck Clayton blues from the 1950s Jam Sessions on Columbia; Ruby Braff's PLEASE with Ellis Larkins on Vanguard. Essential to the history of jazz? Perhaps not. Lovely and instructive? Hell yes. Or a simple place to start would be with any Joe Thomas solo on Keynote: bet your readers, as hip as they are, have never heard Joe Thomas, whose pure-spring-water playing is one of the great delights, not only of jazz, but of music. Good job! Michael Steinman, www.jazzlives.wordpress.com

Paul Mauritz said...

Wild Man Blues never struck me as one of the best of Louis' Hot Five/Seven recordings, but to each his own. I'd like to add the solos on Melancholy, Alligator Crawl, Hotter Than That, and Gully Low Blues, and the final trumpet break on That's When I'll Come Back to You. Plus the trumpet lead to the final ensemble chorus of Potato Head Blues.