The Artistry of… Terell Stafford

I love it when accolades come from colleagues and friends of the artist. — recognition by peers, and especially when the peer is an elder or someone senior in experience and time spent. About Terell Stafford, McCoy Tyner said this: “One of the great players of our time, a fabulous trumpet player.”

Stafford’s playing is straight ahead. Fearless, it steps right into the fray, right into the circle, and like a skilled schoolyard double-dutcher, he is right in time, every time.

He started playing the trumpet when he was in his early teens, studying classical music. A meeting with Wynton Marsalis turned him on fully to defining himself as a jazz artist. Marsalis added him to the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra.

He is an educator, too, and his students are the luckiest to be so mentored and guided in their learning experiences. He leads when he plays and he leads as he teaches. He has taught at Juilliard in New York; he is director of jazz studies and chair of instrumental studies at Philadelphia’s Temple University; he leads his own band, the Terell Stafford Quintet; and he is managing and artistic director of one of Philadelphia’s great big bands, the Jazz Orchestra of Philadelphia (or JOP).

Leading and teaching, he plays like he leads. In step, in time and, like McCoy Tyner said, one of the great players of our time.

The Artistry of… is a weekly series that reflects on the passion and essence of an artist. It airs Wednesday evenings on Dinner Jazz with John Devenish.