Thinkofone's Blog

One person's thoughts may change the world

Marcus Belgrave, Trumpet Legend…


Marcus Belgrave, the Jazz trumpet legend who made his home in Detroit, has passed on. He is the second of the twin pillars of jazz trumpeters whom lived in Detroit that helped Detroit be the jazz bop town that it is, the other great trumpeter was Herbie Williams. I knew Herbie Well, he taught me the finer craft of music and the trumpet, but Marcus was a true legend, one which cannot be replaced, and will be missed by those who knew him. If, you have never heard him play, especially live, you have truly missed one of the most greatest jazz legends of the past 79 years.

I won’t talk about what helped made Marcus so great, I will allow others who are more qualified to do that,  but, rather who respected him the most. That person is Wynton Marsalis. Now, Wynton, helped usher in the rebirth of jazz in the 80’s. Young brash and bold, he as a trumpeter brought back recognition the pure genius of improvisation, big band, and jazz’s true recognition of “America’s Original Music”. But Wynton had a special place for Marcus, understanding that Marcus was acutually a better trumpeter that he was. He made sure there was a spot in the Lincoln Center Jazz orchestra, which was, when he first started it, was exclusive for those 30 and under, and had a true grasp of the tradition of jazz music. Marcus was the best, and Wynton knew it.

My favorite Marcus moment was when I went to go see Wallace Roney, another great but much younger trumpeter than Marcus. A friend and I went to go see Wallace play at the boat house version of Bert’s marketplace, on Belle isle in Detroit. Now for those of you who don’t know too much about jazz, Wallace plays very simular to Miles Davis. He’s even been critized to some extent about it, but he has since found his own voice. Now, Marcus came out in support of Wallace, and came in waving to the small crowd, and at Wallace’s beckoning, asked him to come on stage with him.

Now here is where I saw the greatness of Marcus Belgrave. He went out of the door, and warmed up in the parking lot for about 30 seconds. Not much of a warm up. He then walked on stage, and began to improvise of a song that slips my mind at the moment. Then, to everyone surprise, he began to play the same, slick, way that Miles Davis improvised, better than even Wallace could. Wallace, in awe, smiled, and shook his head in the utmost respect for Marcus.

In that moment, perhaps Wallace had learned something, and so did I. It’s OK to mimic, or try to sound like someone else, but, that all it is, like sounding someone else. Marcus in a very subtile way, showed Wallace the way, and I believed he took something from that lesson that night, and so did I. The lesson was very simple; Find your own voice, it may take time, it may take effort, it may take years, but eventually, find your own voice. After that true growth and development will follow.

Marcus Belgrave’s horn has grown silent, similar to another great trumpeter who recently died, Clark Terry. It is the “sound of music”, not just jazz, has been changed by these iconic men. Marcus was a jazz legend. He made this world a little better for us. And, like another jazz great, he’s gone home…

If you’ve never heard him play, how unfortunate for you…




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This entry was posted on May 25, 2015 by in Music, World View and tagged , , , , , .
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