Trumpeter Blue Mitchell was best known as a highly lyrical and hard-swinging player, with accomplished craftsmanship and a clear tone. Owner of a direct, lightly swinging, somewhat plain-wrapped tone that fit right in with the Blue Note label’s hard bop ethos of the 1960s,tends to be overlooked today perhaps because he never really stood out vividly from the crowd, despite his undeniable talent.
Blue Mitchell made his name as a member of Horace Silver’s quintet, where his lyrical playing and beautiful timbre perfectly complemented Silver’s simplified, soulful brand of bop. Mitchell later developed into a trumpeter and bandleader who produced jazz that was ultimately infectious, fully flavored with soul and swing, but devoid of all pretentiousness.
Mitchell caught the attention of, with whom he recorded for Riverside in 1958. That year, he joined , with whom he played and recorded until the band’s breakup in March 1964, polishing his hard bop skills. When disbanded, ‘s spinoff quintet carried on with a young future star named in the piano chair. This group, with several personnel changes, continued until 1969, recording a string of albums for Blue Note.
Aware that opportunities for playing straight-ahead jazz were dwindling,became a prolific pop and soul session man in the late ’60s, and he toured with from 1969 to 1971 and blues/rock guitarist in 1971-1973.
Blue Mitchell also recorded as a sideman with Sonny Stitt, Dexter Gordon, Jimmy Smith, Red Garland, George Benson, Stanley Turrentine, Lou Donaldson, Cedar Walton and Tony Bennett. Blue kept his hard-bop playing going with the Harold Land quintet up until his death from cancer on May 21, 1979 in Los Angeles, California at the age of 49.
“I think Blue Mitchell was one of the most melodic players of his generation”