Ambrose Akinmusire: Shining At Kennedy Center

  • Playlist
  • Embed
    <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">

If Ambrose Akinmusire's story leads you to expect a serious trumpeter, you'd be right. He thinks about music constantly, practices day and night. His neighbors either don't hear his playing — "At 2 in the morning, I'm not blasting high notes or anything" — or maybe they like it. His tone is shining, but matte at the same time, always in control. His candle burns bright.

Set List

  • "Ruby"
  • "Henya"
  • "Walls of Lechugilla"
  • "What's New" (Burke & Haggart)
  • "Few But Far Between"


  • Ambrose Akinmusire, trumpet
  • Logan Richardson, alto sax
  • John Escreet, piano
  • Harish Raghavan, bass
  • Justin Brown, drums
Ambrose Akinmusire

Ambrose Akinsusire's trumpet sound is assertive, yet warm and controlled. Courtesy of the Monk Institute hide caption

toggle caption Courtesy of the Monk Institute

"Sure, I did these two competitions, [but] even my approach to that wasn't a competitive type thing. Being a good person, that's number one on my list. I don't compare myself to people," says Akinmusire.

His music supports this claim; it's personal.

"I have a belief that nothing's ever done," Akinmusire says. "I would like to believe that my compositions are living, so they transform as I transform."

Ambrose writes melodies from his own ideas, and improvises on them from the inside.

At the KC Jazz Club at the Kennedy Center, "Ruby" is for his beloved grandmother. "Henya" is Farsi for mirror and the composition unfolds as a musical palindrome. "Walls of Lechugilla" refers to the deepest cave in the continental U.S., in Carlsbad Caverns. The melody of "Few But Far Between" is a wide-interval etude that develops from wide intervals.

Akinmusire is a fan of Woody Shaw (1944-1989), who leapt between pitches and landed gracefully in his compositions and improvisations.

"You look at [the intervals] on paper, and [there seems to be] a very far distance, but the actual notes in between are very few," Akinmusire says. "So I just started telling myself they're far but few between."

And one last thing: "It really bothers me when people say jazz is over," Akinmusire says. "Eighty percent of my friends are jazz musicians. The notion that jazz is dead is totally false."

Surround sound mix by Duke Markos.

Purchase Featured Music

Prelude to Cora

Purchase Music

Purchase Featured Music

Prelude to Cora
Ambrose Akinmusire
New Talent Spain

Your purchase helps support NPR Programming. How?




Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the Community rules and Terms of Use. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.

NPR thanks our sponsors

Become an NPR sponsor

Support comes from