About Ambrose

During his 15-year career, Ambrose Akinmusire has paradoxically situated himself in both the center and the periphery of jazz, most recently emerging in classical and hip hop circles. He’s on a perpetual quest for new paradigms, masterfully weaving inspiration from other genres, arts, and life in general into compositions that are as poetic and graceful as they are bold and unflinching. His unorthodox approach to sound and composition make him a regular on critics polls and have earned him earned him grants and commissions from the Doris Duke Foundation, the MAP Fund, the Kennedy Center

The Berlin Jazz Festival and the Monterey Jazz. While Akinmusire continues to garner accolades, his reach is always beyond—himself, his instrument, genre, form, preconceived notions, and anything else imposing limitations.

Motivated primarily by the spiritual and practical value of art, Akinmusire wants to remove the wall of erudition surrounding his music. He aspires to create richly textured emotional landscapes that tell the stories of the community, record the time, and change the standard. While committed to continuing the lineage of black invention and innovation, he manages to honor tradition without being stifled by it.

Akinmusire is a rigorous practitioner with an uncompromising dedication to creation. “I’ve learned to accept the consequences of believing in invention and creativity. You’re gonna be misunderstood. But my horse blinders have gotten a lot longer and lot thicker over the years.”

clearly something very special and personal is at work here, a vision of jazz that’s bigger than camps, broader and more intellectually restless than blowing sessions.
— The Los Angeles Times

Born and raised in Oakland, California, Ambrose Akinmusire (pronounced ah-kin-MOO-sir-ee) was a member of the Berkeley High School Jazz Ensemble when he caught the attention of saxophonist Steve Coleman. Akinmusire was asked to join Coleman’s Five Elements, embarking on a European tour when he was just a 19-year-old student at the Manhattan School of Music. After returning to the West Coast to pursue a master’s degree at the University of Southern California, Akinmusire went on to attend the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz in Los Angeles, where he studied with Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter and Terence Blanchard.


In 2007 Akinmusire won the prestigious Thelonious Monk International Jazz Competition, decided by a panel of judges that included Blanchard, Quincy Jones, Herb Alpert, Hugh Masekela, Clark Terry and Roy Hargrove. That year Akinmusire also won the Carmine Caruso International Jazz Trumpet Solo Competition and released his debut album Prelude…To Cora on the Fresh Sound label. He moved back to New York and began performing with the likes of Vijay Iyer, Aaron Parks, Esperanza Spalding and Jason Moran. It was also during this time that he first caught the attention of another discerning listener, Bruce Lundvall, President of Blue Note Records.

Akinmusire’s Blue Note debut When The Heart Emerges Glistening was released in 2011 to rave reviews. The Los Angeles Times praised his “chameleonic tone that can sigh, flutter or soar,” adding that “Akinmusire sounds less like a rising star than one that was already at great heights and just waiting to be discovered.” DownBeat described his playing as “spectacular and not at all shy — muscular, driving, with a forward sound, pliant phrasing and a penchant for intervallic leaps,” concluding that “clearly something very special and personal is at work here, a vision of jazz that’s bigger than camps, broader and more intellectually restless than blowing sessions.”

American, b. 1982, Oakland, California

Selected Discography

Leader +

• Origami Harvest | Blue Note Records

• A Rift in decorum Live at the Village Vanguard | Blue Note Records

• the imagined savior is easier to paint | Blue Note/Capitol/Universal Records

• When the Heart Emerges Glistening | Blue Note/EMI Records

• Prelude …To Cora | Fresh Sound

Sideman +

• Dhafer Youssef, Diwan of Beauty and Odd, Okeh Records
• Wolfgang Muthspiel Rising Grace
• Tom Harrell Something Gold, Something Blue

• Kendrick Lamar, To Pimp A Butterfly, Top Dawg/Aftermath/Interscope
• Marcus Miller Afrodeezia
• Righteous Girls, Gathering Blue, Panoramic Recordings
• Afrodeezia Marcus Miller

• Joni Mitchell, Love Has Many Faces, Rhino Records
• Cold Specks, Neuroplasticity, Arts & Crafts
• Somi, The Lagos Music Salon, Okeh Record

• Gerald Clayton, Life Forum, Concord Records
• Dayna Stephens, That Nepenthetic Place, Sunnyside Records
• Trilok Gurtu, Spellbound, Moosicus Records
• Yellowjackets, A Rise in The Road, Mack Avenue

• Jack DeJohnette, Sound Travels, Entertainment One Music
• Mette Juul, Moon On My Shoulder, Calibrated Records

• Chris Dingman, Waking Dreams, Between Worlds Music
• Vince Mendoza, Nights On Earth, Horizontal Jazz
• David Binney, Barefooted Town, Criss Cross Jazz

• Walter Smith III, III, Criss Cross Jazz
• John Escreet, Don’t Fight The Inevitable, Mythology Records

• Terri Lyne Carrington, More to Say...Real Life Story
• Roy Hargrove Big Band, Emergence, EmArcy Records
• Le Boeuf Brothers, House Without A Door, Le Boeuf Brothers Music

• Esperanza Spalding, Esperanza, Heads Up International
• John Escreet, Consequences, Posi-Tone Records

• Josh Roseman, New Constellations: Live in Vienna, Accurate Records
• Sara Gazarek, Return to You, Native Language Music
• Alan Pasqua, Anti Social Club, Cryptogramaphone

• Walter Smith III, Casually Introducing, New Talent Spain

• Vijay Iyer & Mike Ladd, In What Language, Pi Recordings

• Aaron Parks, Shadows, Keynote Records

• Steve Coleman, Resistance is Futile, Label Bleu


Awards & Honors +

• Downbeat Critic’s Poll, Trumpet #1

• NEA Touring Grant/Western Jazz Presenters
• Downbeat Critic’s Poll, Trumpet

• Doris Duke Artist Award
• ECHO Jazz Award, Instrumentalist of the Year/Brass
• Jazzwise, “Top 20 Jazz Albums in the last five years”, #7 and #20
• Downbeat Critic’s Poll, Trumpet #1
• JJA Jazz Awards, Trumpeter of the Year

• Paul Acket Award, Artist Deserving Wider Recognition
• Doris Duke Impact Award
• Le Grand Prix de l’Académie du Jazz, the imagined savior is far easier to paint
• Le Grand Prix de l’Académie du Jazz, When the Heart Emerges Glistening
• NPR Music Jazz Critics Poll, #3
• Slate Magazine, “Best Jazz Albums of 2014”, #4
• The Telegraph, "The 33 Best Jazz Albums of 2014”
• The LA Times, “Best Jazz Album of 2014” Pop Matter, “Best Jazz of 2014”
• New York Times, “Top Albums of 2014, #9
• KQED Arts, "Top California Jazz Releases for 2014”
• All Music, Best of 2014: Favorite Jazz Albums”
• Downbeat, Best of 2014, #2
• JazzTimes Critic’s Poll, Artist of the Year
• JazzTimes Critic’s Poll, Trumpeter of the Year
• JazzTimes Critic’s Poll, Record of the Year
• Downbeat Critic’s Poll, Trumpet #1

• Downbeat Critic’s Poll, Rising Star: Jazz Group
• 2012 Coup de Coeur Académie Charles Cros,
• JazzTimes Critic’s Poll, Trumpeter of the Year
• Downbeat Critic’s Poll, Trumpet
• JJA Jazz Awards, Trumpeter of the Year

• ECHO Jazz Award, Instrumentalist of the Year/Brass,
• New York Times, Best Albums of 2011, #1 (Jazz)
• JazzTimes, The Top Releases of 2011, #3
• Next Bop 2011, Best Albums of 2011 #6
• Los Angeles Times, “2011 year in Review: Best in Jazz”
• LA Weekly, “Top 5 Los Angeles Jazz Albums of 2011”
• Slate Magazine, “Best Jazz Albums of 2011”, #7
• TimeOut Chicago, “The 10 jazz albums of the year”, #2
• The Independent, Best of 2011
• Downbeat Critic’s Poll, Jazz Artist of the Year
• JJA Jazz Awards, Trumpeter of the Year
• JJA Jazz Awards, Up and Coming Artist of the Year

• Carmine Caruso International Trumpet Solo Competition Winner
• Thelonious Monk International Jazz Trumpet Competition Winner

Grants & Commissions +

• Princeton University “untitled”

• Berlin Jazz Festival “ MAE/MAE”
• The St. Paul Chamber Orchestra’s Liquid Music “ Origami Harvest”

• New Jazz Works Grant, Chamber Music America
• John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, “Untitled”
• Roomful of Teeth at MassMOCA “ The smile - “The howl -the promise in the stillness”

• Hyde Park Jazz Festival, “banyan”
• Monterey Jazz Festival, “The Forgotten Places” Commissioned Artist

• Montreal Jazz Festival - invitation series

• French American Jazz Exchange, FACE Foundation
• Creative Capital’s Multi-Arts Production (MAP) Fund

Teaching & Residencies +

• Amsterdam Conservatory Artist in Residency Antwerp Conservatory of Music Artist in Residency

• California Jazz Conservatory
• Dave Brubeck Institute
• Stanford Jazz Workshop

• University of Southern California
• Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity
• Berklee College of Music, Artist-in-Residence

• University of Southern California
• Banff Center for Arts and Creativity

• University of Southern California
• Monterey Jazz Festival, Artist-in-Residence

• Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity

• Stanford Jazz Workshop

Education +

• M.M., University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA
• Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz, Los Angeles, CA

• B.M., Manhattan School of Music, New York, NY