Obscure Trumpet Masters #4 – Carmell Jones

Carmell Jones (1936 – 1996)

“The New York scene was stifling me and I was becoming disenchanted with things in the States.” Carmell Jones

He plays on one of the most famous straight-ahead jazz songs ever recorded, yet today people are more likely to confuse him with a film character played by Dorothy Dandridge, than they are to know the titles of any of his six albums. 

Carmell Jones was a native of Kansas City, KS, who possessed a powerful attack and a clear buoyant tone. This made finding work as a sideman and as a studio musician, after he moved to California in 1960, relatively easy. 

During the early ‘60’s Jones, played or recorded with Bud Shank, Gerald Wilson, Nelson Riddle and many others. He recorded his first album, The Remarkable Carmell Jones, for Pacific Records in 1961, with Harold Land joining him on the front line.  It was an auspicious debut, with Jones, Land and the band swinging hard through a few hard-bop tunes and a couple of standards. Gerald Wilson wrote arrangements for his next two albums: Business Meetin’ and Brass Bag, also for Pacific.

(Carmell Jones plays “Yvette”)

In the spring of ’64, Jones moved east to join Horace Silver’s group. During his brief tenure with the pianist, he played on several cuts on the celebrated Song for My Father album, including the title track.  He also recorded  his best known album, Jay Hawk Talk, for Prestige and played on some well-received discs with Land, Booker Ervin and Charles McPherson. Not surprisingly, Jones was voted Downbeat’s “New Star Trumpeter”.

(From Jay Hawk Talk, Carmell Jones – “Willow Weep for Me”)

Yet, at the height of this apparent success, Jones quit Silver’s band in the summer of ’65 and moved to Germany, where he remained for the next 15 years.

Though this move may have been best personally for the easygoing Jones, it probably hurt him professionally, as he was effectively removed from the U.S. jazz scene until he returned, in virtual anonymity, in 1980. 

He recorded a very good album Carmell Jones Returns, in 1982, but it went virtually unnoticed. He taught music in elementary school and worked on the local Kansas City jazz scene for the remainder of his life, before passing away in 1996, at the age of 60.

I discovered Jones’ music through picking up a used LP copy of Jay Hawk Talk in Greenwich Village record store a few years back. I’ve heard most of his limited discography since then. I find something new to like each time I hear him.  I think you will too.

Recommended Recordings:

4 Responses to “Obscure Trumpet Masters #4 – Carmell Jones”

  1. Yeah Curt! Digging on your digging up of these cats not too many people know about.

  2. great tribute. Keep the education coming our way

  3. […] in 1962, it’s a good album, that features Herb Ellis on guitar; Leroy Vinnegar on bass; Carmell Jones on trumpet; Russ Freeman on piano and a young, pre-fusion Roy Ayers on vibes.  In addition to her […]

  4. Carmell Jones is one of my favorite trumpeters: so lyrically adept and graceful (as evidence on his rendition of “Willow Weep For Me”) but he could cook when he had too. He made a great front line with Harold Land too. All their albums together are excellent.

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