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Trumpeter Keyon Harrold on “having the courage to be honest, the courage to be who you are.”

Keyon Harrold
Kwafu Alston
Keyon Harrold

Trumpeter/composer Keyon Harrold was born and raised in Ferguson, Mo. to a musical family. He is the son of pastors and one of 16 children. As a boy, a trumpet was placed in his hands, and the rest is history.

He moved to New York to study at The New School in the 1990s and became part of a legendary generation of musicians associated with the neo soul movement, including Common, Bilal, Roy Hargrove, The Roots, and Robert Glasper.

Harrold is a reliable and sought after player among big acts, and he’s worked with Jay-Z, Beyonce, Rihanna, Eminem, Maxwell, Mac Miller and Snoop Dogg. At the same time he’s a seriously gifted jazz improviser and composer, who was mentored by trumpeter Charles Tolliver, and who was once referred to as “the future of the trumpet” by Wynton Marsalis.

He supplied all of the trumpet playing in Don Cheadle’s Miles Davis biopic Miles Ahead, playing to match Cheadle’s on-screen performance as Miles. The soundtrack to the film won a Grammy.

But while Keyon has enjoyed what might appear to be a charmed career, he has also had a series of unexpected setbacks and heavy lived experiences that contribute to his musical journey.

His new album Foreverland is a celebration of his multidimensional career and his sensitivity as an artist, proving that Harrold is a master of channeling his lived experience through his horn.

The album features 10 original songs that explore themes of empowerment, positivity, love, loss, and vulnerability. And it’s a family affair — nearly every musician is a longtime friend, including Common, Robert Glasper, Laura Mvula, Chris Dave, Marcus Gilmore, Nir Felder, Randy Runyon, BIGYUKI, Burniss Travis and many others.

Here he talks about Foreverland, how a series of losses in his life ultimately led him to make “something beautiful, something positive, something inspiring,” and his reflections on the early days of his career as part of a community of like-minded musicians who were “always open.”


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Leo Sidran is a Grammy winning multi-instrumentalist musician, producer, arranger, composer, recording artist and podcast host based in Brooklyn, New York.