Associated Press
Louis Armstrong

Playlist: 5 Essential Jazz Trumpet Solos

March 18, 2009
by Rachel Balik
Taste in jazz is extremely personal, and everyone has an opinion. Still, some songs and musicians stand out as classics in a particular category. FindingDulcinea looks at five songs with legendary trumpet solos.

Louis Armstrong: West End Blues

Although Louis Armstrong wasn’t exclusively a jazz musician, his contributions to the genre are immense, and arguably unparalleled. calls “West End Blues” “the most emulated jazzwork of all time.” The site offers an early recording of the piece. After hearing Armstrong’s solo at the beginning of the much-imitated, timeless work, trumpet player Max Kaminsky said that, “I felt as if I had stared into the sun's eye.”

Herbie Hancock: Maiden Voyage

NPR’s Jazz Library reports that Herbie Hancock’s 1965 album “Maiden Voyage” sought to capture the essence of the sea: “the flow of the current; the creatures, great, small and mythical, who live in the water; the response of voyagers, who experience it for the first time.” The trumpet solo on the title track marvelously captures that sense of newfound independence. On NPR’s site, you can listen to Freddie Hubbard’s trumpet solo in the piece, as well as another sea-themed track from the album, “Dolphin Dance.”

“Maiden Voyage” was one of the albums that marked the beginning of Hancock’s solo career. His partnership with the record label Blue Note had just begun, and would only improve over the years.

Dizzy Gillepsie: Salt Peanuts

Dizzy Gillespie was arguably one of the greatest trumpet players of all time. In an obituary for this founder of modern jazz, The New York Times declared his playing “meteoric, full of virtuosic invention.”

Gillespie was also a great musical innovator. “Salt Peanuts,” a song he debuted in 1942 with Charlie Parker on the alto sax, interweaves jazz and bebop. Today considered a classic, the use of bebop in “Salt Peanuts” was considered revolutionary at the time. Listen to a 1953 performance of “Salt Peanuts” on YouTube.

Miles Davis: So What

PBS calls Miles Davis, “the most consistently innovative musician in jazz from the late 1940s through the 1960s.” He also started his career working with Parker, and moved on to participating in experimental workshops and performing with numerous other jazz greats.  He produced “Kind of Blue,” arguably one of his more definitive albums, in 1959. You can listen to the first track, “So What,” on the PBS site.

A reviewer on declares that “So What” is “a sort of showcase of the band, and it in itself is proof of Miles’ skill at arranging the perfect band, if not of god's existence.”

The album alternates between cool and calm, and has proved to be one of jazz’s definitive works, appealing to old-time devotees and those fresh to the genre.

Clifford Brown: Cherokee

Clifford Brown died prematurely in a car crash at the age of 26, but in his short lifetime, he made his mark as a jazz trumpeter.  One of the best examples of his skill can be heard in the song “Cherokee” on the Max Roach Quintet’s album “Study In Brown.” Some regard Roach’s drumming as the highlight of the piece but the song undeniably showcases Brown’s dexterity on the trumpet.

Judge for yourself by listening to “Cherokee” on

Most Recent Features