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Albert "Al" Aarons (born March 23, 1932) is a jazz trumpeter, flugelhorn player and occasional composer . He was a fixture in the Count Basie Orchestra and he played movie, television and awards show gigs for Henry Mancini for 17 years. He was a sideman with a multitude of jazz heavyweights including Stanley Clarke, Gene Ammons, Frank Foster and Milt Jackson. He did trumpet duties on the recordings and television appeareances of numerous top vocalists including Frank Sinatra and Ella Fitzgerald. He played with Blues legend B.B. King and the Godfather of Soul, James Brown.



Al Aarons has been featured on recordings from the early 1960s until today.


Aarons was born March 23, 1932 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. His uncle inspired him to take up playing the trumpet and the flugelhorn.

"I don't remember my exact age, but he had a basement filled with instruments. I loved going down there and looking at all of them. He told me if I found one I really liked, he'd pay for my lessons. And he did."[1]

"When he was a boy, I'm talking in elementary school, when school was over and all of his friends were outside playing, Al would go upstairs to the family's attic with his horn and practice two hours a day, no matter what, and do so while he watched his friends out on the street," his wife Janet recalls. "Imagine no one had to force him, no one was telling him not to go out there with the rest of the kids. The heat must have been horrific in the summer. He just wanted to practice and become the best trumpeter he possibly could, even at that young age."[2]

His high school band director originally wanted him to audition for the Pittsburgh Symphony.

"I've had a blessed career, not many people can say that they've been able to earn their living by following their passion, but if there was one thing I could do over, I wish I would have found a way to do that audition. Back then though, there were no Afro-Americans playing in symphonies," Aarons said.[3]

He graduated from Wayne State University in Detroit in 1950, which would become his musical "base" for many years after a stint in the Air Force, where he played in their jazz band, which shifted his artistic focus to Jazz.

After he got out of the service, Aarons returned to Detroit, where he began to gain attention as a trumpet player in 1956. His early Detroit years were marked by work with multi-instrumentalist artist Yusef Lateef and pianist Barry Harris.

In the early 1960s his intense solos riffed off the equally intense Detroit jazz organist Wild Bill Davis. At that time he also did projects with saxophonists Frank Wess and Frank Foster. Foster was one of Count Basie's favorite arrangers. It was through Foster that Basie was introduced to Aarons.

"He loved my playing," Aarons said of Basie. "Asked for my phone number and said he'd probably call me soon and ask me to join his band. It took a year, but he did!"[4]

Aarons played trumpet in the Count Basie Orchestra from 1961 to 1969.

"I played with Basie for about 10 years. We were on the road 48 weeks of the year – most of it by bus. We also toured many wonderful countries – Japan, Sweden, Italy – and right after their independence, we went to Jamaica and played in Kingston. I loved it. The spontaneity, feeling the warmth of all those audiences, being treated so very special; there was nothing I didn't love about those years." [5]

Count Basie introduced Aarons to legendary composer and conductor Quincy Jones. Jones encouraged him to move to California, which was becoming a work refuge for top musicians from the big bands' slow demise in the age of Rock music. He relocated to Los Angeles where he hooked up with motion picture composer, arranger and conductor Henry Mancini. For 17 years, he played for Mancini on numerous movie and television tracks, and at numerous award shows.

A 1971 collaboration with vibraphonist Milt Jackson is considered to be one of his best efforts. In the early '70s, he also recorded with both Fitzgerald and Sarah Vaughan, and later in that decade he blew some high notes behind Maria Muldaur on her over-produced Sweet Harmony album. Several top-notch arrangers and film composers liked working with this trumpeter, including Henry Mancini, Gerald Wilson, and Buddy Collette. Aarons felt a great empathy with the latter artist, a superb flutist and reed player as well as arranger and composer. The trumpeter started his own label, modestly calling it Legend. With the sheer number of available jazz recordings of superb quality, it is difficult to ascertain whether a particular one is the stuff of legends. Yet the 1973 Now and Then is vintage Collette, and contains some of Aarons' best soloing on record as well, appropriate enough since he had to shell out the doolah to press the thing. The relationships with the aforementioned arrangers and film music bigwigs happened consecutively, rather than concurrently, allowing the trumpeter to focus on patches of steady employment at key times. While the late '70s were a bit of a commercial lull for jazz, Aarons kept up appearances in a combo with swing tenor giant Zoot Sims. Studio work under the baton of Wilson begin kicking in during the mid-'80s. Even though he used to shine on a Basie arrangement entitled "Easin' It," the trumpeter is no relation to the Albert Aarons who sang background vocals on the intentionally awful Keith Carradine song entitled "I'm Easy."

He listened and began doing studio work, which is where he met

He also worked as a sideman for singers Sarah Vaughan and Ella Fitzgerald, and saxophonist Gene Ammons. He performed with Frank Sinatra and the famed Rat Pack at the Sand's Hotel. He did the trumpeting for Sinatra's famous "Fly Me to the Moon."

Aarons moved into jazz fusion, playing on School Days with Stanley Clarke. He appears with Snooky Young on the classic 1976 album Bobby Bland and B. B. King Together Again...Live.

"I loved performing jazz for its spontaneity. I found it to be much more satisfying, but I also loved playing with Mancini and others in the studio. I played for such shows as Flip Wilson and Della Reese. I also played in the Grammy orchestra about 10 times during the '70s. I've played on the Academy Awards shows about 5-6 times, the last time in 2002. I was on stage and performed the song from 'Chicago.' After that though, I put down my horn for over five years." Births 1932 Birthplaces - Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania Trumpeters Flugelhornists Aarons, Al Sidemen - Trumpet Count Basie Orchestra - Players

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