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.
Stafford has been an integral member in bands led by esteemed artists such as Cedar Walton, Sadao Watanabe, Herbie Mann, and Matt Wilson. Stafford has appeared on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, Rosie O’Donnell Show, and You Bet your Life with Bill Cosby. Bill Cosby has been an incredible mentor for Stafford welcoming him into the house band on his show, encouraging Stafford to teach and was instrumental in his positions at Cheney University and Temple University, Cosby’s alma mater. Stafford can be heard along with Bobby Watson on the soundtrack for the feature film A Bronx Tale and in the documentary Treme: Untold Story of Black New Orleans. Stafford has performed as a guest artist with the Billy Taylor Trio on National Public Radio’s Billy Taylor’s Jazz at the Kennedy Center.
Time to Let Go (Candid 1995) was Stafford’s debut album featuring Victor Lewis, Ed Simon, Steve Wilson, Tim Warfield, Victor See-Yuen, Steve Nelson and Michael Bowie. Centripetal Force (Candid 1997) was Stafford’s second release featuring Ron Blake, John Clark, Stefon Harris, Ed Howard, Victor Lewis, Russell Malone, Daniel Moreno, Stephen Scott and Tim Warfield. His third album was Fields of Gold (Nagel-Heyer 2000) featuring Bill Cunliffe, Kiyoshi Kitagawa, Antonio Hart and Rodney Green. His fourth release was New Beginnings (MAXJAZZ 2003) featuring Mulgrew Miller, Derrick Hodge, Dana Hall, Steve Wilson, Dick Oatts, Harry Allen, and Jesse Davis. He followed this album with Taking Chances (MAXJAZZ 2007) featuring Bruce Barth, Tim Warfield, Dana Hall and Derrick Hodge. Stafford’s newest release This Side of Strayhorn (MAXJAZZ 2011), featuring Tim Warfield, Bruce Barth, Peter Washington and Dana Hall, has been hailed as “the first must have album of 2011” and “genius”.
Stafford can be heard performing on over 130 albums; a sampling is included here. Stafford with the Hamilton-Clayton Jazz Orchestra, performed on Diana Krall’s GRAMMY nominated From this Moment On (2006). John Clayton invited Stafford to perform with the Clayton Brothers Quintet, Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra and to teach for the prestigious Vail Jazz Foundation. In celebration of Jimmy Heath’s 80th birthday, Stafford recorded with the Jimmy Heath Big Band for the album Turn Up the Heath (2006). As a member of drummer Matt Wilson’s group Arts and Crafts, Stafford is featured on the album Scenic Route (2007). Stafford performed on Alvin Queen and the Organic’s album I Ain’t Lookin’ at You (2006).
Stafford was a member of the GRAMMY nominated Bobby Watson’s Tailor Made Big Band for their album Tailor Made. Stafford is a member of the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra and they were awarded a GRAMMY in 2009 for Best Large Ensemble, Live at the Village Vanguard. Stafford had the privilege of performing solo trumpet with the Temple University Symphony Orchestra for the premiere performance of Fourth Stream…La Banda. This commissioned piece for orchestra, jazz combo and solo trumpet, was written by GRAMMY winning composer Bill Cunliffe, former Boyer College faculty member. It was recorded on the university’s music label, BCM&D, and subsequently nominated for a GRAMMY in 2010 for Best Instrumental Composition. He is a member of the GRAMMY nominated Clayton Brothers Quintet for Best Instrumental Composition, Brother to Brother 2010 and New Song and Dance 2011. Another Temple University commissioned piece, Overture; Waltz & Rondo was nominated for a GRAMMY in 2013.
Stafford is the Director of Jazz Studies and Chair of Instrumental Studies at Temple University, founder and band leader of the Terell Stafford Quintet, and Managing and Artistic Director of the Jazz Orchestra of Philadelphia (JOP). Stafford is renowned in the jazz world as an educator, performer and leader along with countless award nominations, accolades and associated acts.
Terell Stafford was born in Miami and raised in Chicago, Illinois and Silver Spring, Maryland. He received a Bachelor of Science in Music Education from the University of Maryland in 1988 and a Masters of Music from Rutgers University in 1993.