The 67-year-old trumpeter has worked with Ray Charles, Charles Mingus, Ella Fitzgerald, Max Roach and Wynton Marsalis. Belgrave has six CD’s under his belt, and has conducted jazz workshops in the United States and Europe.
In Detroit, however, where he has lived, for 40 years, Belgrave is revered for teaching. He likes helping musicians develop. In 1973, he started his first jazz workshop. Four years later, he became the musical director at Cobb's Corner, a popular jazz club in Detroit that was sort of a sanctuary for budding jazz musicians.
Violinist Regina Carter, pianist Geri Allen, bassist Robert Hurst, and saxophonist Kenny Garret were Belgrave’s protégés. Since studying with him they have become successful musicians.
For two years, Belgrave wanted to form this summit. At a FDIJF fundraiser, Belgrave pitched the idea to the festival’s director, Frank Malfitano. The Idea excited him. Initially, Malfitano scheduled one performance, but Belgrave persuaded him to sponsor three.
In Chicago, four years ago, Belgrave participated in a similar program with fellow trumpeters Clark Terry, and Roy Hargrove. However, Belgrave wanted the summit at the FDIJF to be more youthful. " I wanted to make the public aware of who was out there and what these young guys could do with their instrument, and I wanted the trumpeters to see the level of competition out there."
So he gathered some of his former students, and trumpeters he met at jam sessions in various cities. " I kept in touch with all the guys to let them know that I hadn’t forgot about putting the summit together, and that I still wanted them to be a part of it."
The summit was surreal. Try to imagine trumpeters, Fats Navarro, Roy Eldridge, Chet Baker, Lee Morgan, Booker Little and Freddie Hubbard performing together. They would have caused the bandstand to combust. Belgrave’s ensemble didn’t have the name recognition as the aforementioned, but they have the same enthusiasm. In a way, each resembled a legendary trumpeter of another generation.
Trumpeters John Douglas, Greg Glassman, Dwight Adams, Corey Wilkes, Sean Jones, Dominick Farinacci, Chris Johnson, Maurice Brown, Rob Smith, Josiah Woodson, and Derrick Gardner had the Pyramid and the Waterfront stage ablaze. It sounded as if they were conducting a hard-bop revival meeting.
The summit wasn’t about battling or egos. It was purposeful, and all the musicians were in sync. Instead of grandstanding, the trumpeters created a familial chemistry. " There wasn’t any jealousy here," Dwight Adams said. "There was nothing but love. This has been a fun week. I feel like I’m in New York on something".
Dwight Adams had a big brotherly presence. The others tried to match his might. He played like he invented hard-bop.
Belgrave divided the players into units. He started each tune. Then he stepped aside to let them swing. The first unit, Sean Jones, Maurice Brown, Chris Johnson, Dwight Adams, Dominick Farinacci and Greg Glassman took flight on Tadd Dameron’s bebop anthem Hot House.
Ohio native Sean Jones established the barometers that the others had to reach for. He blew standing on his toes. At times, he had to lean back to muster enough force to shoot the notes into the audience. When he finished the others looked reluctant to solo. " Sean was the definitely the energy giver of the group. He listened to Clifford Brown’s albums. Sean would call me up and ask me to explain to him what Clifford was doing on his solos. I told him that I had been trying to figure out for myself what Clifford was doing," Belgrave admitted.
Maurice Brown and Greg Glassman had a likeness to Clarke Terry. They hovered in the upper register, and when they improvised Brown and Glassman didn’t stray away from the melody.
Chris Johnson was unpretentious, and he hung in the lower register. Johnson subtle tone was evocative of Art Farmer.
Dominick Farinacci was demonstrative, and he explored every angle and curve of his horn. When he left the bandstand his horn was still throbbing.
The rhythm section kept the trumpeters in check. Mulgrew Miller played the piano. During his solos some of trumpeters congregated around his piano. They were drawn to the way his fingers raced across the keys. Miller had the trumpeters in a trance.
Karriem Riggins turned his face away from his drums to avoid getting burned by the flames that flew off them when he soloed. Bassist Rodney Whitaker kept both from straying.
The trumpeters weren’t all piss and vinegar. They displayed their maturity on My Funny Valentines and All of You.
If a trumpet God exist he should consider Belgrave and the 11 trumpeters his disciples. Given the success of the summit Belgrave should do a recording with these guys. Then he should tour with them.