Blue Mitchell

Trumpeter Blue Mitchell (1930-1979) always had a sound of his own, featuring a cry in his tone that was immediately recognizable.

Mitchell began his career in the early 1950s by touring with r&b bands including those led by Paul Williams, Earl Bostic, Chuck Willis, and Red Prysock. Back in his native Miami, the trumpeter was discovered in 1958 by Cannonball Adderley, who used him on one of his dates. That same year, Mitchell joined the Horace Silver Quintet, an association that would last until 1964.

From 1958-1962, Blue Mitchell led several albums for Riverside and these feature him in diverse but consistently rewarding settings. Big Six finds the hard-bop trumpeter holding his own with an all-star group consisting of trombonist Curtis Fuller, tenor saxophonist Johnny Griffin, pianist Wynton Kelly, bassist Wilbur Ware, and drummer Philly Joe Jones; their version of Golson’s “Blues March” is its first recording. Out of the Blue has the trumpeter sharing the frontline with tenor saxophonist Golson while Blue Soul features Mitchell showcased in a quartet and with Fuller and tenor saxophonist Jimmy Heath in a sextet. Blue’s Moods is a special set because it really lets the trumpeter stretch out throughout the quartet date. Smooth as the Wind has Mitchell joined by a brass section, a rhythm section, and strings arranged by Tadd Dameron and Benny Golson. A Sure Thing, a nonet project with arrangements by Jimmy Heath, and The Cup Bearers (which has the trumpeter leading the Horace Silver Quintet, with Cedar Walton in Silver’s place) conclude Mitchell’s Riverside period.

Blue Mitchell led a quintet during 1964-1969, spent two years apiece as a featured soloist with Ray Charles and John Mayall, and ended his career playing in Los Angeles with the big bands of Louie Bellson, Bill Holman, and Bill Berry in addition to co-leading a quintet with Harold Land. Cancer cut short his life at age 49.