The greats help you learn.
Listening to the best trumpet players is a great way to improve your own skills.
But the best trumpet solos don’t just help us learn.
They touch us on an emotional level, they inspire us, they amaze us, and much more.
Listening to any of the solos below will undoubtedly touch you on a deeper level.
So lets get right to it. These are the best trumpet solos ever.
Best Trumpet Solos Of All Time
Freddie Freeloader by Miles Davis
Miles Davis has gone down in history not only as one of the greatest trumpet legends we’ve ever heard, but also as one of the best jazz composers and musicians overall.
During his 50-year career, Miles Davis notably influenced an immense variety of styles and variants of jazz, from bebop or hardbop to avant-garde and rock-fusion jazz.
His sound was always characterized by the use of the Harmon mute, which was a piece of steel that gave his trumpet a more intimate, soft, and melodious quality. This was a perfect match with Davis’ short, melodic, and lyrical note music.
He played with other greats such as Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker, Billy Eckstine, Max Roach, and John Coltrane, and recorded more than 50 studio albums.
The song Freddie Freeloader is considered one of the best, and most mellow, pieces by Davis. It has a certain complexity in some chords, and that is where his genius lies. Apparently, Miles knew a guy named Freddie who would often find a way to listen to his performances without paying.
Ciribiribin by Harry James
Harry was one of the great trumpet masters who influenced a broad generation of musicians to come. He was also an excellent big band conductor.
Born in Albany in 1916, he began playing the trumpet at age 10, when his father introduced him to the world of music through the famous Arban method for brass players.
It was in 1931, in Texas, that James joined local dance orchestras, later with Ben Pollack and Benny Goodman. He created his own big band in 1939 in Philadelphia, in which another legend sang: Frank Sinatra. In fact, it was the first orchestra where Sinatra sang continuously.
In addition to this great achievement, he appeared in many Hollywood films. His music also features in many, such as in Woody Allen’s “Hanna and Her Sisters.”
The song Ciribiribin was originally composed in the late 19th century by Alberto Pestalozza, but was performed by James in 1939 and was soon selected among the best jazz singles ever due to its complexity and fantastic performance by James.
Con Alma by Dizzy Gillespie
It’s hard to think of the jazz trumpet without imagining Dizzy Gillespie’s puffy cheeks. He was one of the most virtuous and captivating trumpeters in the history of jazz.
But he was also a singer and songwriter, facets that perhaps not everyone knows. Among his famous compositions are several that have become jazz music standards, such as Anthropology, A Night in Tunisia, or Salt Peanuts.
He was also a lover of Afro-Cuban music, so he ventured into different genres and fusions, such as Afro-Cuban jazz, calypso, and bossa nova. This experimentation led him to work with other musicians such as percussionist Chano Pozo or with Stevie Wonder.
Within the jazz world, he played with other musicians such as Charlie Parker, Mario Bauzá, Sonny Rollins, Stan Getz, and Coleman Hawkins.
Con Alma is one of his best performances, mainly due to the fact that the composition is a mixture of blues, jazz, and bossa nova. And Dizzy Gillespie performed it with an emotion and precision that only true maestros can pull off.
Gonna Fly Now by Maynard Ferguson
Born in Montreal, Canada, in 1928, Maynard Ferguson was one of the most prolific trumpeters in the history of jazz, having recorded more than 60 studio albums and having collaborated with great jazz players of the stature of Dizzy Gillespie, for example.
Without a doubt, he achieved this all in large part thanks to his early genius and virtuosity. From the age of 13, he was giving concerts as a soloist in his native Canada. In fact, at that time he had already started his own band.
One of his great recognitions was that he created the music for the famous movie Rocky, starring Silvester Stallone.
Interestingly, many people believe that this specific work – Gonna Fly Now – is one of the toughest songs to play on the trumpet. High-pitched sounds and trumpet screams can only be done with a lot of physical effort and practice, and Maynard Ferguson made it look easy.
A Night In Tunisia by Arturo Sandoval
Originally from Cuba, Arturo Sandoval is one of the most famous and recognized jazz trumpeters in history. That has been true ever since he began his professional career in 1977.
He started with music at the age of 13, trying various instruments until he decided on the trumpet. This decision led him to form one of the most important jazz groups in Cuba, the Irakere group, together with Paquito D’Rivera and Chucho Valdés, two legends of the saxophone and piano, respectively.
Sandoval was always closely tied to another legend, Dizzy Gillespie, whom he considers his spiritual father. Gillespie’s experimentation and interest in Afro-Cuban music paved the way for Sandoval to international success.
His experience and talent allowed him to perform songs like A Night in Tunisia, one of the most difficult songs in terms of technique and fast playing.
This special live performance from 2011 will show you how magnificent Sandoval is and how high you still have to aspire in order to become a great trumpeter.
Carnaval Of Venice by Maurice Andre
Maurice André was born in Alès, France, in 1933. He was one of the pioneers of the trumpet as a solo instrument and undoubtedly responsible for giving the trumpet an important solo role in academic music.
The trumpet was always an instrument of accompaniment, marching bands, or linked to jazz, with little classical repertoire. This invited the academic musician to develop a solo career.
André managed to give this importance to the trumpet from his studies at the Paris Conservatory and being a soloist trumpeter in prestigious groups such as the French Radio-Television Philharmonic Orchestra or the Lamoureux Concerts Orchestra.
Such was his recognition that great conductors such as Herbert von Karajan, Karl Böhm, or Karl Richter requested him as a soloist in their concerts. He was one of the most influential trumpet teachers of the last century.
One classical piece that will completely blow your mind is Carnival of Venice, where Maurice Andre perfectly switches between slow and ballad-like parts to completely sped-up parts.
In certain parts, it sounds as if the piece was being played at five times the normal speed. Playing the trumpet fast is nothing new or unusual, but playing with such precision and transitioning between fast and slow playing is truly a challenge.
When You’re Smiling by Louis Armstrong
Studying the origin of jazz without analyzing the career and life of Louis Armstrong would be nonsense. His own life was jazz.
He life went from misery, neglect, racism, and poverty in his childhood, to selfless help, the affection of strangers who would become his family, and his own redemption in the form of jazz music.
Louis Armstrong lived a childhood of delinquency until 1918, when at just 18 years of age, he was hired by the conductor Kid Ory to play in one of the most important orchestras in the city.
In the early 1920s, he moved to Chicago and in 1924, to New York, where his fame as a trumpeter spread like hotcakes.
He toured the world, gave the trumpet its place as a soloist in jazz, and made the vocal style called scatting famous. Among his beautiful songs like La Vie En Rose, What a Wonderful World, and many others, it’s incredibly hard to pick one solo.
One amazing solo Armstrong played in a song called When You’re Smiling (The Whole World Smiles With You) is an absolute classic.
Even though the song is quite slow-paced and one might not find anything difficult about this solo, it is considered as one of the best solos on the trumpet ever. Why?
Well, while the melody is soothing, Armstrong shapes the sound and emotion according to his tastes. And when emotion and precision are combined, you get something very special.
Up Late by James Morrison
James Morrison is an Australian multi-instrumentalist who plays the trumpet, saxophone, clarinet, flugelhorn, trombone, tuba, double bass, and piano. He achieved his greatest recognition on the trumpet.
He was honored to compose the opening fanfare for the 2000 Sydney Olympics, has written many compositions for jazz, and has won various jazz festivals and competitions in Australia.
Interestingly, he made a mistake when playing the Spanish anthem at the 2003 Davis Cup in Australia. He played the old Irrigation Hymn instead of the Royal March. Nevertheless, James Morrison is a unique trumpeter of today and many find inspiration when listening to his playing.
Speaking of, there are many songs to choose from, but his Up Late solo is something out of this world, especially when trying to play like him.
In the video below, apart from fantastic control and technique, you can see James Morrison turning the trumpet upside down and playing for a few seconds. As if the solo itself wasn’t hard enough!
Best Trumpet Solos: Final Thoughts
Have you had a chance to listen to all of the solos listed above? Do you agree that they belong on this list of the best trumpet solos of all time?
If there is a solo you do not think deserves a spot on this list, please let us know in the comments below. Also let us know if you think we left off any solos that should have scored a spot in this article.