Blue Mitchell Day

March 13, 1930 – May 21, 1979

A tribute to the colorful hard bop trumpeter

Trumpeter Richard “Blue” Mitchell was born on March 13, 1930, in Miami, Florida.

Mitchell began playing trumpet in high school and he worked early on with Paul “Hucklebuck” Williams (1951-52) and Earl Bostic (1952-55).

After freelancing in Miami, he was discovered by Cannonball Adderley who persuaded producer Orrin Keepnews to record the young trumpeter for his Riverside label.

Mitchell became famous for his work with the Horace Silver Quintet (1958-64), playing opposite tenor-saxophonist Junior Cook, bassist Gene Taylor, and drummer Roy Brooks.

The trumpeter, in addition to his string of impressive albums for Riverside, switched to Blue Note in 1963 and appeared on records as a sideman with such players as Dexter Gordon, Jimmy Smith, Lou Donaldson, and Stanley Turrentine.

In Mar. 1964 after Silver broke up his quintet, Mitchell formed his own similar group, using Cook, Taylor, drummer Al Foster, and several pianists including Chick Corea; his “Fungii Mama” (included on his album The Thing To Do) became a standard.

Mitchell recorded other excellent albums for Blue Note, toured with Ray Charles (1969-71), and was featured with blues star John Mayall (1971-73) in an effective mix of blues and bop.

After moving to Los Angeles in 1974, Mitchell worked with Louie Bellson, Bill Berry’s big band, Richie Kamuca, and in a quintet with Harold Land, always contributing inventive hard-bop solos and his easily identifiable sound.

Blue Mitchell passed away in 1979 from cancer at the age of 49.

Here is the trumpeter’s recording of “Blue Soul” from September 1959.


Blue Mitchell, trumpet
Curtis Fuller, trombone
Jimmy Heath, tenor sax
Wynton Kelly, piano
Sam Jones, bass
Philly Joe Jones, drums

-Scott Yanow


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