The Checkout Meets Up with Trumpeter Keyon Harrold, Ablaze, at the North Sea Jazz Festival

Aug 2, 2018

Keyon Harrold’s beautiful trumpet tone has been heard on many of our era’ s defining popular music, from Jay-Z to Maxwell to Mac Miller.


At the same time, he has carved out a serious solo career, notably with his ambitious album The Mugician.

“It has everything from classical music, to soul, to R&B, to hip-hop, to jazz because it’s all a part of me,” Harrold told me recently. “It’s everything. It’s not just simple quartet, quintet arrangements. It’s orchestrations.”

Harrold grew up the 10th of 16 kids in Ferguson, Mo. At the North Sea Jazz Festival last month, he used the stage to speak out against racism and social injustice — playing “MB Lament,” for Michael Brown, who was killed by a police officer in Ferguson in 2014. Harrold also premiered a new ballad that grapples with these same issues: “Love In Tragedy,” commissioned by the director and actress Anna Deavere Smith. (That song has its broadcast premiere here.)

We’ll also hear Harrold speak about his musical idol, Miles Davis. He played all of the ghosted trumpet parts on Miles Ahead, Don Cheadle’s 2015 biopic. It was a stray comment by Cheadle that gave Harrold a title for The Mugician.

Harrold will perform on the Charlie Parker Jazz Festival at Marcus Garvey Park on Saturday, Aug. 25. WBGO will be there to capture some of the Festival's performances.

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Assistant Producer: Anthony Nieves