From its organic beginnings in the summer of 2013 as a group of New Orleans trumpeters getting together at Ashlin’s apartment to share practice techniques and support each other’s continued growth, the Trumpet Mafia has become a band of creative excellence with unexpected arrangements that mix traditional jazz and hip hop styles.
As indicated in this interview at Ingolstadt Jazz Fest in Germany, the Trumpet Mafia grew out of those early "sheds" or practice sessions.
Stephen Maloney of Offbeat Magazine overheard some of the early practice sessions and began writing about and recording them. His article, “Trumpet Mafia Takes Over,” describes their early development.
After well-received gigs at Tulane University, WWOZ, Snug Harbor and the Jazz Playhouse, the Trumpet Mafia “took over” Jazz Fest in 2015. Offbeat Magazine contained an excellent review that celebrated the band’s festival debut. The writer noted that “At the end of the set, the entire crowd jumped to its feet for a sustained standing ovation. It was a magnificent coming out party for an immensely talented band.”
The Trumpet Mafia has played at every subsequent Jazz Fest, with guest artists such as Leroy Brown, Adam Rapa, Nicolas Payton and Maurice Brown. They have played at other festivals and special events in New Orleans, such as French Quarter Fest and Satchmo Summerfest. In 2017, they were recognized with Offbeat Magazine’s Best of the Beat Award for Best Emerging Artist.
In 2019, their performance at Jazz Fest was a rousing tribute to the late Roy Hargrove, as described in Offbeat Magazine: “The Trumpet Mafia, like Joshua’s army of trumpeters that blew down the walls of Jericho, could not be denied. The kindly mob, headed by “Godfather” Ashlin Parker, triumphed in talent and sheer numbers with some 20 eager brass players making a joyful noise. One-time resident, the always dramatic Maurice Brown, who, like pianist/vocalist Davell Crawford, seemed to pop up all over the festival, was in the Mafia’s number. In dedication to the recently deceased trumpet giant Roy Hargrove, Parker brought in students of Hargrove’s alma mater, Dallas’ Booker T. Washington High School.” Downbeat also gave a very positive review of their performance.
As the Trumpet Mafia has coalesced as a performing unit, it also has expanded as a concept, with membership expanding to include trumpeters in countries such as Japan, Australia, Switzerland, and Russia, as well as numerous locations in the United States. Now, the Trumpet Mafia intentionally includes children and teenagers so that they may grow and thrive from the experience of working alongside more skilled and experienced musicians in actual performance events such as large festivals. At the same time, older musicians draw inspiration from the energy and talent of the young people. The 2019 JazzAscona festival in Switzerland recognized this unique design and invited Ashlin to lead the Trumpet Mafia project for the seven days of the 10 day festival, which included shared learning experiences with trumpeters from beginners to masters as well as pop up performances. To watch a brief interview about the Trumpet Mafia at Jazz Ascona, click here.
photo from The Syncopated Times