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Artist’s Choice: Taylor Haskins on Electric Trumpet Essentials

Today’s top jazz performers pick 10 favorite tracks by the players, singers and styles that helped define them.

Don Cherry
Donald Byrd

Many years ago I wandered into a bar on the way home after a gig, and on the house sound system they were playing an intriguing piece of music I’d never heard before. Out of nowhere, an ethereal instrument I couldn’t immediately identify entered the sonic landscape. Was it an analog synthesizer of some kind? A heavily filtered guitar? Wait … was it … could it be … a trumpet? After a few minutes of intense listening, I concluded that it was. However, there was still the question of who it was. After some deliberation I concluded it was Jon Hassell. I ventured my guess to the bartender, who quickly replied, “No, man, this is Miles!”

I was shocked. The song was the first one on this list, and, to my credit, the track also happens to be a frequently cited reference point for Hassell and Brian Eno. Since then, Get Up With It has become one of my favorite recordings. What really got me that day in the bar was how natural Miles’ electric sound was, and how it felt like a new instrument entirely. It wasn’t simply a trumpet-with-electronics. This was a true integration-a sonic concept emanating from within the player, under his complete control.

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