Terell Stafford, acclaimed trumpet player based in New York, has been hailed as “one of the great players of our time, a fabulous trumpet player” by piano legend McCoy Tyner. Stafford is recognized as an incredibly gifted and versatile player, he combines a deep love of melody with his own brand of spirited and adventurous lyricism. Stafford’s exceptionally expressive and well defined musical talent allows him to dance in and around the rich trumpet tradition of his predecessors while making his own inroads.
Stafford first picked up the trumpet at age thirteen, initially studying classical music. While pursuing a music education degree at the University of Maryland, Stafford played with the school’s jazz band. In 1988, Stafford had the good fortune to meet and receive advice from Wynton Marsalis who suggested that he study with Dr. William Fielder at Rutgers University. After studying trumpet fundamentals with Dr. Fielder, Stafford was inspired to play all genres of music including jazz. It was during this time that he began to immerse himself in jazz; listening to everything he could get his hands on. Stafford cites one of his most profound musical influences as Clifford Brown’s rendition of Cherokee. Later, Marsalis gave Stafford the opportunities to perform in his group Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, and teach at Jazz at Lincoln Center and Juilliard. Marsalis supports Stafford’s current role as Managing and Artistic Director of the Jazz Orchestra of Philadelphia and continues to offer his guidance and support. While studying at Rutgers, Stafford was invited to join Bobby Watson’s group, Horizon. The next five years were spent balancing his offstage education with the incredible knowledge and experience gained from performing alongside Watson, co-leader Victor Lewis and Shirley Scott. Scott invited Stafford to join her quintet and the house band on Bill Cosby’s show You Bet Your Life, where Scott was Musical Director, this gave Stafford the opportunity to play alongside Tim Warfield that led to their ongoing musical collaborations. Stafford credits these experiences to honing his skills as an effective arranger, composer and bandleader; all things that Bobby Watson himself learned from his time with the late Art Blakey while performing with the Jazz Messengers. Stafford’s time with Horizon led to his joining McCoy Tyner’s Latin All-Star Band that featured some of the best Latin jazz players, including trombonist Steve Turre, flutist Dave Valentin and percussionist Jerry Gonzalez.
Since the mid-1990’s, Stafford has performed with groups such as Benny Golson’s Sextet, McCoy Tyner’s Sextet, Kenny Barron Quintet, Frank Wess Quintet, Jimmy Heath Quintet and Big Band, Jon Faddis Jazz Orchestra, Carnegie Hall Jazz Band and Dizzy Gillespie All-Star Alumni Band.