The trumpet has a rich history, and it’s one of the most versatile instruments in any jazz ensemble. Any early jazz music would have the trumpet as its lead instrument due to its commanding sound.
If you love the sound of a jazz trumpet, you should know who some of the most influential jazz trumpeters are and learn about their influence on older and newer genres.
Thus in this post, we’re going to look at 30 of the most famous jazz trumpet players and how they have influenced the world of jazz and beyond. Read on!
1. Louis Armstrong
2. King Oliver
Considered one of the pioneers of jazz, King Oliver had a great influence in the genre. As a musician, he initially played the trombone before switching to the cornet, which he played often, and then changed to the trumpet later on in his career.
In the early 1920s, King formed the Creole Jazz Band. They played in New Orleans before heading for Chicago and making it big there.
Consisting of Louis Armstrong, Baby Dodds, Johnny Dodds, Lil Hardin, Honoré Dutrey, and Bill Johnson, the band is probably best known for their performances of “Dippermouth Blues,” “Sweet Like This,” and “Doctor Jazz.”
It was King who mentored jazz trumpet legend Louis Armstrong and helped lead him to greatness. He’s also well-known for his use of mutes when playing, as well as for popularizing the wah-wah sound on the horns.
3. Miles Davis
4. Dizzy Gillespie
5. Clifford Brown
6. Clora Bryant
7. Lee Morgan
8. Chet Baker
9. Bix Beiderbecke
Bix 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.
10. Red Allen
Henry James Allen Jr., known best as Red Allen, was born in New Orleans, Louisiana. He took trumpet lessons at a young age and began professionally playing in the 1920s in jazz bands of King Oliver, Fate Marable, Fats Pichon, and Louis Russell, among others.
In Louis Russell’s band, Allen featured as a soloist, and throughout the ’30s and ’40s, he made several recordings with other jazz artists like Don Redman and the Rhythmakers.
It was until the 1950s that Allen began recording under his own name, like Red Allen, Kid Ory & Jack Teagarden at Newport and Ride, Red, Ride in Hi-Fi. He would also begin to lead his own band and tour with them.
Sadly, Allen’s career was not long-lived. After being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 1966, he passed away a few months after.
11. Hot Lips Page
If you’re a trumpeter and got nicknamed Hot Lips, then you must be a very good one. This is precisely Oran Thaddeus Page’s story, who was a prolific player of over 200 recordings.
In his teen years, Hot Lips Page started performing in minstrel shows and circuses before moving on to jazz orchestras around the late 1920s. Then at the turn of the decade, he began a solo career and led his own band, touring extensively with his group.
Known for his wide range and broad tone on the trumpet, Page is considered one of the forebears of early R&B. A talented singer as well, he has collaborated and created duets with well-known singers of the time, like Pearl Bailey and Artie Shaw.
12. Roy Eldridge
Multi-instrumentalist Roy Eldridge first began playing the piano, then the drums, before settling on the trumpet after being inspired by saxophonists he had heard. His versatility and skill on the trumpet earned him the nickname Little Jazz.
During his late teens, Eldridge began his professional career in traveling troupes before moving to New York to play in bands there as well as make records of his own.
He was lead trumpeter in Fletcher Henderson’s Orchestra during the mid-1930s to the end of the decade and soon became known for his dynamic jazz playing.
Eldridge continued his career until well into the 1970s; however, after suffering a heart attack in 1980, he retired from music.
13. Bunny Berigan
Jazz trumpet virtuoso Roland Bernard “Bunny” Berigan started playing when he was still a teen, joining the Hal Kemp Orchestra in 1929. They toured extensively in Europe, and when the orchestra returned to New York, Bunny started a career as a studio musician.
Sought after by many well-known music artists at the time, Bunny recorded with Glenn Miller, Freddy Martin, and Fred Rich, among many others. On the side, he would join bands for performances, and he eventually created his own in the late 1930s.
In April 1942, Berigan’s health started to decline, and he was diagnosed with cirrhosis. Despite being advised to stop drinking alcohol and playing, the trumpeter continued. A month later, a massive hemorrhage caused his demise. He was only 33.
14. Red Nichols
We have next another cornetist joining the list. Ernest Loring Nichols—nicknamed Red—was a prodigy when it came to the horn. Before he was 12, he was already playing in his father’s band.
In the 1920s, Nichols began recording with his own group called Red Nichols and His Five Pennies. Over the next few decades, his band had many notable musicians in the roster, including (but not limited to) Glenn Miller, Gene Krupa, and Benny Goodman. The Five Pennies’ version of “Ida, Sweet as Apple Cider” is considered one of their best.
An avid composer, Nichols also wrote several original works like “Nervous Charlie Stomp” and “Blues at Midnight.” His over four-decade career landed him a spot in the Big Band and Jazz Hall of Fame in 1986.
15. Harry James
16. Cat Anderson
Though known as one of Duke Ellington’s trumpeters in his orchestra, Cat Anderson was more than that. His skill in playing the altissimo register and use of the plunger mute in his performances gained him popularity.
Anderson played for Ellington’s orchestra on and off from 1944 to 1971. In between, he would focus on recording with others and his own big band.
Also a composer, Anderson wrote and co-wrote many well-known jazz pieces, like “Bluejean Beguine” and “El Gato” with Duke Ellington. The 1959 album Cat on a Hot Tin Horn contains his original work and arrangements.
17. Ray Nance
Like Cat Anderson, Ray Nance played in Duke Ellington’s Orchestra, replacing Cootie Williams after he joined up with another big band.
Nance gained popularity with his trumpet solo of “Take the ‘A’ Train” shortly after he joined the orchestra. This would eventually become Ellington’s theme and be copied by various trumpeters over the years, including Williams.
After staying with Ellington’s orchestra for over 20 years, Nance began touring the Middle East and Europe. He also recorded with other well-known musicians and singers of the time, like Rosemary Clooney, Chico Hamilton, and many more.
18. Cootie Williams
In early jazz times, apparently many musicians had nicknames, and Charles Melvin Williams’ was Cootie, in reference to what he said to describe the sound he heard in a concert when he was just a child.
And like the other two before him on this list, Duke Ellington’s Orchestra helped make Williams popular. During his time with the orchestra, he had numerous solo performances, like in Harlem Air Shaft” and “Echoes of Harlem.”
In 1940, Williams caused quite the stir when he left Ellington’s band to join Benny Goodman’s orchestra before shortly creating his own big band. However, a little over 20 years later, he returned to Ellington’s orchestra until Ellington passed away in 1974.
Williams continued playing until his passing in 1985. Six years after, he was inducted into the Alabama Jazz Hall of Fame.
19. Fats Navarro
A pioneer of bebop, Theodore “Fats” Navarro started playing the trumpet when he was in his teens. After high school, he began touring in bands, gaining the experience he needed to succeed.
After touring, he stayed in New York where he played with many renown musicians like Andy Parker and played in big bands of Benny Goodman and Lionel Hampton, among many others.
His skillful trumpeting also landed him record session jobs with the likes of Kenny Clarke, Coleman Hawkins, and Bud Powell.
In the late 1940s, Navarro’s health began to decline. He was diagnosed with tuberculosis, and in the mid-1950, he passed away. The trumpeter was only 26.
20. Freddie Hubbard
21. Clark Terry
22. Wynton Marsalis
23. Doc Severinsen
Anybody who’s watched The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson would probably be familiar with the name Doc Severinsen. The Oregon native led the NBC Orchestra for the show for over two decades.
Severinsen started leading the NBC Orchestra in 1967 after being their first-chair trumpeter for five years. It was with the orchestra and the show that he became one of America’s best-known bandleaders, retiring from the orchestra only after Johnny Carson retired in 1992.
Aside from his work with NBC Orchestra, Severinsen has recorded albums, like The Tonight Show Band with Doc Severinsen, and performed in other TV shows. He has also conducted orchestras before retiring in 2022.
24. Roy Hargrove
Renown jazz trumpeters do not have be from the 1920s or ’30s. Inspired by the names mentioned above, many trumpeters in the recent decades have emerged. Texan musician Roy Hargrove was one of them.
Born in 1969, Hargrove studied music as a child and in college. He released his debut album, Diamond in the Rough, to great success in 1990. Five years later, he grouped his own music group called Roy Hargrove Big Band. With this band, Hargrove would go on to win two Grammys.
During the last decades of his life, Hargrove had been struggling with kidney failure and was on dialysis. In 2018, however, he passed away from complications of the disease. He was only 49.
25. Arturo Sandoval
26. Andrea Motis
A few years later, she started learning jazz, and she began playing with the bassist Joan Chamorro as a teenager.
27. Ingrid Jensen
28. Nicholas Payton
Born in 1973 in New Orleans, we have Nicholas Payton, son of jazz bassist Walter Payton. A prodigy, Payton was already tooting a trumpet by the time he was four. When he was nine, he was playing in the band his father was in.
His professional career began in 1990 after signing with Verve Records. He then released his debut album, From This Moment, five years later. His performance in the album Doc Cheatham & Nicholas Payton earned him his first Grammy for Best Instrumental Solo in 1997.
Payton is quite active in his career. He’s founded a jazz ensemble called the SFJAZZ Collective, was in the septet Blue Note 7, released more than 20 recordings, led concert performances, and even has his own record label, BMF Records.
29. Dave Douglas
New York native Dave Douglas was born in 1963. The start of his trumpeting journey was in high school and has continued to this day.
After graduating with a degree in music in mid 1980s, Douglas began playing in several ensembles and toured with them. He would continue performing as a side musician throughout the ’90s, and at this time, too, he would start releasing albums of original work and collaborations.
Since then, Douglas has released over 50 recordings, and as a composer, published over 500 music pieces. His work has earned him many awards, including a Doris Duke Performing Artist Award, and Grammy nominations.
30. Tom Harrell
Born in Illinois in 1946, Tom Harrell started playing the trumpet when he was eight. He studied music composition in college and began touring with Stan Kenton’s orchestra soon after.
Harrell has led his own bands since 1989, one called Tom Harrell Quintet and the other is Tom Harrell Chamber Ensemble. With the quintet, he released five albums. The fifth album, aptly named Number Five, won a SESAC Jazz Award
The year 2018 was great for the trumpeter. That year, Jazz Journalists Association named him Trumpeter of the Year. Harrell has also worked with many notable artists, like Carlos Santana, Ron Carter, and Arturo O’Farrill.