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Jazz trumpeter Al Hood has found the perfect gig at the University of Denver

Musician Al Hood has found the perfect gig at the University of Denver.

Hood, an associate professor of trumpet at DU’s Lamont School of Music, plays dozens of concerts per year in crowded jazz clubs, swanky concert halls and ornate cathedrals around Denver. When he’s not on stage, Hood coaches a number of student ensembles and tutors 13 trumpet students on melodies, mouthpieces and Miles Davis.

Hood also helped resurrect the Rafael Mendez Brass Institute — a weeklong summer music camp that brings together aspiring professional brass players and some of the world’s best brass musicians for a week’s worth of master classes, workshops and concerts — by opening up the Lamont School of Music’s performance and teaching facilities to the institute. And in February 2009, Hood released his first solo album, Just a Little Taste: Al Hood Plays the Writing of Dave Hanson.

James Brown, eat your heart out.

“I have no complaints about my job,” Hood says. “I love teaching and performing equally. And I teach classical music and jazz to all my students.”

Some of his students have gone on to some pretty nice gigs of their own in ensembles as diverse as the New Mexico Symphony Orchestra and the Glenn Miller Orchestra.

“He pedagogically opened my eyes,” says Brittany Branscom, a former student who works in the Lamont public relations office and freelances around Denver. “He’s methodical in his approach to teaching, but he’s very supportive of his students’ creativity.”

Hood came to DU from the University of Miami, where he was working on a degree in jazz performance. He holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in music performance from the University of Kentucky and Northern Illinois University, respectively.

The 45-year-old father of one and Rochester, N.Y., native started playing trumpet in junior high school and turned to jazz after his high school music teacher lent him a few records. Over the course of his career, Hood has performed with jazz giants such as Dave Brubeck, Wynton Marsalis, Gerry Mulligan, Curtis Fuller and Arturo Sandoval, as well as popsters Phil Collins, Ray Charles, Natalie Cole and Engelbert Humperdinck. He’s played with some of his trumpet idols along the way, too, including Doc Severinsen and Clark Terry.

Around Denver, Hood is an A-lister, playing in groups such as the Ken Walker Sextet and the Denver Brass. While he’s played with some of the industry’s best, he’s quick to laud Denver’s top-notch scene.

“I can name you five or six world-class players on each instrument — the roster is huge,” Hood says. “And you can catch someone great pretty much any night of the week.”

Hood collaborated with one of those world-class musicians, Lamont adjunct instructor Dave Hanson, on Just a Little Taste.

Hanson, Hood says, is as good as any arranger in Los Angeles or New York. A collection of five originals and seven standards arranged for jazz trumpet and orchestral strings, the album garnered strong reviews and airplay on Denver-area jazz radio and worldwide.

Hood financed production with a pair of DU grants and his own money and plans to submit the album for Grammy consideration.

“It’s kind of a shot in the dark from an unknown, but why not?” he asks. “People tell me I have my own sound and that it’s a little different. Those are probably the biggest compliments I can get.”


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