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.