Herb Robertson is an avant-garde jazz trumpeter, flugelhornist and music producer. He combines a thorough command of traditional and extended techniques with a prodigious imagination.
Born in New Jersey, he began to play trumpet in school during the fifth grade. He was introduced to jazz two years later by his junior high music teacher including Miles Davis. Robertson began collecting jazz records, listening to all styles from Louis Armstrong to the avant-garde and especially the era’s hard bop. In high school he led a quintet that played dances. During 1969-73 he attended the Berklee School Of Music as an instrumental performance major, a period in which his improvisational skills became highly developed. In 1973 he left Berklee, playing on the road in Canada as a lead trumpeter with jazz-rock cover bands.
In 1975 Herb Robertson had to quit playing music for a short time when the strain of performing nightly in a loud jazz-rock band caused him to temporarily lose his trumpet chops. Robertson altered his style, becoming a more lyrical and explorative player. In 1976 he started a rehearsal big band, also playing with some of the local avant-garde musicians in New Jersey. He met altoist Tim Berne in the late 1970s and first gained attention for his playing with Berne’s groups during 1981-87. His tonal distortions and use of mutes looked back to jazz’s past while his freer improvising was quite futuristic, fitting in very well with Berne’s passionate alto playing. He also became a member of bassist Mark Helias’ group.
Robertson, wholed his initial album in 1982, has since appeared on over 100 recording projects. As a leader he put together his own adventurous band in 1987 and has recorded for the JMT, Splasc (h), Leo, CIMP and Cadence labels. His groups since 1987 include The Double Infinitives, the Herb Robertson Brass Ensemble, and various all-star groups with Dominic Duval, Jay Rosen, Paul Smoker and Phil Haynes. He has worked with many of the major names of avant-garde and modern mainstream jazz including Anthony Davis, Bobby Previte, David Sanborn, George Gruntz, Bill Frisell, Paul Motian, Lou Graissi’s Po’ Band, The Fonda-Stevens Group, Nexus, Barry Guy’s New Orchestra, Michael Moore, Terry Jenoure, Andy Laster, Judi Silvano, John Lindberg, Gerry Hemingway, Zlatko Kaucic, the Satoko Fujii big band, Marc Ducret, Simon Nabatov, Mark Feldman, Pierre Dorge’s New Jungle Orchestra, John Zorn, Roswell Rudd, Elliot Sharpe, the Klaus Konig Orchestra, Rashied Ali, Ray Anderson, Paul Motian, Dewey Redman, Evan Parker, Agusti Fernandez, Jean-Luc Cappozzo, Frank Gratkowski, Michiel Braam, Matthias Schubert, Mark Dresser, the Charlie Haden Music Liberation Orchestra, Wilbert De Joode, Wolter Wierbos...He has been cited as an important influence by Dave Douglas.