Artvoice: Acclaimed trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire in world premiere at Princeton University


Jazz at Princeton University presents renowned trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire in world premiere of Slightly Left of Sorrow’s Song on Saturday, November 17

Work was commissioned by Jazz at Princeton University in honor of the 150th anniversary of W.E.B. DuBois’ birth

Jazz at Princeton University presents guest artist and Blue Note Records trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire in the world premiere of Slightly Left of Sorrow’s Song, commissioned by Jazz at Princeton University to commemorate the 150th anniversary of W.E.B. DuBois’ birth. Akinmusire will perform the 8-movement suite with the school’s Small Group I under the leadership of saxophonist and program director Rudresh Mahanthappa.

The concert takes place at 8 p.m. on Saturday, November 17 at Richardson Auditorium in Alexander Hall. Tickets are $15, $5 students. For information call 609-258-9220 or visit at

Born and raised in Oakland, California, Ambrose Akinnusre, “a thrilling young trumpeter and astute bandleader [with a] unique spark in his playing” (The New Yorker), 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 he 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 artists including Vijay Iyer, Aaron Parks, Esperanza Spalding, and Jason Moran. It was 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.” His new recording is his fourth Blue Note release, Origami Harvest, a groundbreaking work that features the Mivos Quartet, rapper Kool A.D., drummer Marcus Gilmore, pianist Sam Harris, and saxophonist Walter Smith III.

Akinmusire has paradoxically situated himself in both the center and 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 grants and commissions from the Doris Duke Foundation, the MAP Fund, the Kennedy Center, the Berlin Jazz Festival, and Monterey Jazz. 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.