Philly jazz trumpeter, composer, educator leads Temple U’s Symphony Orchestra

Philly jazz
L. David Hinton

When Temple University’s Boyer College of Music and Dance performs its annual concert at the Kimmel Cultural Campus on March 31, the school’s Symphony Orchestra, Studio Orchestra and Choir will do so alongside special guests Terell Stafford and Dick Oatts.

Stafford and Oatts — together with Philly jazz-men Tim Warfield, Bruce Barth, Mike Boone and Justin Faulkner — are also part of the Temple Jazz Sextet, who are paying tribute to Philly-iconic composers John Coltrame and Jimmy Heath on a newly-released album and a gig at Lincoln Center on April 16.

The mighty Stafford chatted with Metro before the big night.

L. David Hinton

How would you describe the overall evolution of your trumpet sound, your compositional skill, and your leadership focus especially with your work at Temple University within the last 3 years?

My sound has developed in a positive way with the time off during the pandemic. I had time to search my heart and soul and figure out that my family comes before anything and my sound reflects the love and patience, they have shown me through the many years of being on road and being away. The musical upside is that my writing has developed and I wrote most of the material on my upcoming album, ‘Between Two Worlds’. I finally had time for myself to write out of love and joy as opposed to trying to meet a deadline. My leadership has changed because I realize that true leadership is about the team and not the leader.

Regarding the development of your Philly jazz tribute ‘Fly with the Wind’ — what was the directive? 

The Philly jazz tribute started as an opening group to a Kenny Garrett concert. The music and ensemble had such a powerful impact on the Temple community that we decided to record and document this stellar ensemble. We asked Bruce Barth to decide on the compositions and write arrangements based on the members of the ensemble. He did an incredible job. We chose material that was complimentary of the sound of the ensemble.

Along with covering Coltrane on ‘Fly with the Wind’, you tackle Philly’s McCoy Tyner and Jimmy Heath, both artists you were inspired by. What was that like?

I performed with McCoy for about 3-4 years in different ensemble configurations. He was an incredible inspiration and mentor. I was very close to Jimmy Heath, an incredible human being. He allowed me to perform in many of his ensembles and accepted for me who I was in my development. He nurtured and guided me both as a musician and educator.

Why did you bring back your own ‘Yes I Can, No You Can’t’ for this album – it is a longtime favorite of your set list?

Why not?! It’s a great tune with a different, more modern flare! The arrangement allowed everyone to shine, especially our drummer, Justin Faulkner.

L. David Hinton

Please discuss expanding the Temple University program that you run and how that results have blossomed into what you will do with the Temple University Symphony Orchestra, Studio Orchestra and Jazz Band. 

Having a dual background with two degrees in classical music and having such a blessed career in jazz, it’s a dream come true to have a position at Temple that allows me to bring a jazz band and orchestra together to create a Studio Orchestra. It brings me joy to see these two ensembles to work together as one. The conductor, José Luis Dominguez, is the perfect person to nurture and infuse the sound of this ensemble which swings and represents a symphonic/orchestral sound.

What lies ahead with the Temple Jazz Sextet and the larger Symphony Orchestra?

We are excited about the Temple Jazz Sextet and the newest project ‘Fly with the Wind’ is our second release, and look forward to many more. The studio orchestra is the sound of fusion and the future. Fusing these ensembles is a learning experience for the students and faculty. In time, this group will continue to develop and grow, especially through genius composers and commissions.