Ambrose Akinmusire

Ambrose Akinmusire

 New York City, New York, USA

Akinmusire is fond of languid, rippling patterns that emerge, echo and gradually fade into the distance. They certainly don’t fade from memory, however. Despite their lack of showiness, they manage to work their way under the skin delivering a tickle one moment and an electric jolt the next.


By the time the lone standard “What’s New?” arrives with a wink 11 tracks into trumpeter-composer Ambrose Akinmusire’s tour de force Blue Note debut When The Heart Emerges Glistening, the song’s title has become a rhetorical question. The unneeded answer: Everything. Akinmusire has delivered nothing less than a manifesto, a Search for the New Land, a personal statement of such clarity and vision that it’s bound to turn heads around towards this startlingly fresh young talent.

Co-produced by Akinmusire and his label mate and mentor Jason Moran, the album’s 12 songs (10 of which were composed by Akinmusire) feature the 28-year-old trumpeter’s young quintet (tenor saxophonist Walter Smith III, pianist Gerald Clayton, bassist Harish Raghavan, and drummer Justin Brown), a close-knit group of longtime friends and frequent collaborators that breathes a remarkable collective identity. The New York Times wrote that the quintet “seems destined for much wider recognition,” and described their unique sound as “limber, straight-ahead jazz with mystery and pop instincts that gets around most of the old, pervasive mainstream influences, both of trumpet playing and bandleading.”

The Los Angeles Times recently named Akinmusire one of their 2011 “Faces to Watch,” and offered this descriptive of the quintet’s recent LA performance: “Akinmusire and his band demonstrated a remarkably fluid, adventurous interplay and patiently imaginative way with melody that sounded as steeped in the music's history as it was hard-wired with the sound of something new. With a chameleonic tone that can sigh, flutter or soar, Akinmusire sounds less like a rising star than one that was already at great heights and just waiting to be discovered.”

The discovery of Ambrose Akinmusire (pronounced ah-kin-MOO-sir-ee) has been a slow and steady process. Born and raised in Oakland, California, it was as a member of the Berkeley High School Jazz Ensemble that Akinmusire first caught the attention of a discerning ear. Saxophonist Steve Coleman was visiting the school to give a workshop and immediately heard promise in the young trumpeter, eventually hiring him as a member of his Five Elements band and embarking on an extensive European tour when Akinmusire was just 19.

The experience proved life-changing. Coleman—considered by many to be the spiritual godfather of the current creative jazz scene—challenged Akinmusire on and off the stage. “Ambrose, what’s your concept?” Akinmusire remembers Coleman asking him on a train ride through Germany. “Concept? I’m 19, I don’t need a concept. It’ll just come one day,” shrugged Akinmusire, raising the saxophonist’s ire. “He really laid in on me. I’ll never forget it,” he recalls. “You’ve got to start thinking about it now,” Coleman told him. “Everything you don’t love, make sure that’s not in your playing.”

Akinmusire took the advice to heart, and returned to his studies at the Manhattan School of Music determined to discover his own voice. “When I got back to school I wrote a list,” he explains. “It was very specific, it had things on it like ‘I don’t want to be confined by my instrument’ or ‘I want to have a sound like a French Horn player.’ It had harmonic concepts on it. I posted it on my wall so every day I was reminded of it. It caused me a lot of trouble because if a teacher told me to do something and it didn’t really fit what was on that list I didn’t listen to them. It really made me learn who I was because I had to defend that every day.”

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, an experience that began to bring his quest into clearer focus. “I went from being the oddball to being surrounded by people who were just like me and having teachers that were stressing [individuality] like Terence [Blanchard], Herbie [Hancock], and Wayne [Shorter]. I learned a lot from Terence. He really got me to be 100% comfortable in the things I was hearing in my head. After the Monk Institute it was just me going for my own sound and my own concept.”

2007 was a pivotal year for Akinmusire. He entered and won the prestigious Thelonious Monk International Jazz Competition from a panel of judges that included Blanchard, Quincy Jones, Herb Alpert, Hugh Masekela, Clark Terry and Roy Hargrove. That year he also won the Carmine Caruso International Jazz Trumpet Solo Competition and released his debut recording Prelude…To Cora on the Fresh Sound New Talent label. He moved back to New York City and began performing with the likes of Vijay Iyer, Aaron Parks, Esperanza Spalding, and Jason Moran, taking part in Moran’s innovative multimedia concert event In My Mind: Monk At Town Hall, 1957. It was also during this time that he first caught the attention of another discerning set of ears, those of Bruce Lundvall, President of Blue Note Records.

“I've been following Ambros


As a Leader
When the Heart Emerges Glistening (2011)/Blue Note
Prelude to Cora (2007)/Fresh Sounds

As a Sideman:
Walter Smith III, III Criss Cross Jazz, 2010
Walter Smith, Live in Paris, Blue Geodiscs, 2009
Dave Binney, Third Occasion, Mythology Records, 2009
Linda Oh, Entry, 2009
John Escreet, Consequences, Posi-tone, 2008
Esperanza Spaulding, Esperanza, Heads Up, 2008
Alan Pasqua, The Anti-Social Club, Cryptogramophone 2008
Walter Smith, Casually Introducing Walter Smith III, Fresh Sounds, 2005
Josh Roseman, Constellations Live: in Vienna, Accurate Records, 2005
Vijay Iyer, In What Language, Pi Recordings, 2004
Aaron Parks, Shadows, 2001
Steve Coleman, Resistance is Futile, Label Blue Records 2001


Contact: Mariah Wilkins Artist Management LLC
315 East 86th Street, Suite #2EE
New York, NY 10028
Phone: 212.426.3282
Fax: 646.290. 6180

Reno di Matteo
Anteprima Productions