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By Phil Hanson

A day in the life of Bruno Mars’ Trumpeter: James King

By Phil Hanson | Published: May 9, 2013

jkingI became first aware of Trumpeter James King when a mutual friend of ours gave me a CD of a group out of Atlanta, Georgia called Jaspects. James and I befriended each other on Twitter right when he started with the Bruno Mars band and found out we have a lot of great musical friends. I really enjoyed his energy and passion for music, teaching, family and life.  As we developed a friendship I introduced him to my trumpet family over at Cannonball and ever since then I’ve been seeing him all over TV, online and everywhere with Bruno Mars. I was able to catch up with him before he jumped on a plane on another adventure with Bruno Mars.


How long have you been playing Trumpet and is that your only instrument?

I have been playing the trumpet since I was 12 years old. So in total 16 years and it is my only main instrument. I am beginning to work on flute and dabble with percussion/piano but only beginner stuff.

You’re currently playing with Bruno Mars, how did that relationship come about?

Well the horn section was put together by Kenneth Whalum III. I knew him from school (Morehouse College) and he saw how I was developing. From there when he received the phone call it was a simple as calling us and placing us in this position.

What level of input do you have into the music you play with Bruno?

As far as the music we play not much. But with parts the horn section works together going with the best idea. The music is brought to the group and we work through finding our parts.

Describe an average day in the life for us please, give us a feeling for how your life typically runs?

Well when I am on tour a typical day is arriving on site of the venue. I work out for an hour or so shower and if there is time before sound check practice a bit. After sound check which can run from an hour to two I will then rest on the bus, watch tv or play video games. Go into venue about an hour and a half before we play and either watch our openers or go and hang back stage with everyone. After the show pack up get on the bus and head to the next city.

Typical days when I am not on tour begins the same way with me working out. After that I will begin practicing. Now I add in the flute to work on my air capacity and control. Depending upon what I have going on that day will determine how much I will practice.

What career highlights have you experienced so far?

I will say the highlights would be playing the Grammy’s two years in a row. Other things would be playing the Atlanta Jazz Fest, New Orleans Jazz Fest, Essence Fest, SNL, The VMAs and the Victoria Runway Show. Playing with the Lionel Hampton Tribute band with Jason Marsalis playing Vibes was an highlight too.

What advise and guidance would you give young musicians with aspirations of turning pro’ like you?

My advice would be to submerse yourself with as much music as you can. Be able to not only find your voice in addition to being able to play different genres. Don’t create an unnecessary box for yourself when you can open up doors that will lead you to different opportunities.

Also make sure your personality does not keep you from opportunities. Make sure people not only enjoy your playing abilities in addition to who you are. Don’t let your personality get in the way of your success.

How much instrument practice do you do each day and what is your typical practice regime?

It depends on the day. I start off the same way each time I pick up my horn. My teacher called it the daily diet for trumpet. Long Tones, Lip Slurs, Tonguing Exercises, Scale Excercises and Range. From there I incorporate an Etude and Song of the week so that I am incorporating the daily diet in music. Another big thing to work on is sight reading and with every excercise use a metronome.

At the very minimum I practice an hour and a half to three/four hours in a day.
You never want to practice so much to where you hurt yourself or push too hard on your chops.

Tell me about your horn, why did you go with the Cannonball over other horns?

Well the horn I use with Bruno is the big bell Retro Gold finish. When I am home with other artist I use the big bell Iced Black Nickel finish. Both are made by cannonball who I am endorsed by. I chose these horns because of the ease of play and the sound it provides me. These horns not only give me bite it also has a smooth sound throughout the entire register.

I went with Cannonball because I like the sound the big bell provided me. To me they are some of the best horns on the market today. From using a Bach and switching to a Cannonball it was an easy transition along with the unique sound it provided me. I also love these horns because they all give you a different texture to your sound that is unique to you. Unlike when you play on some horns you can hear what type of horn they maybe using.

Which musicians have and do inspire you and why?

Roy Hargrove and Lee Morgan are my biggest influence on the trumpet. They really have inspired my sound and my approach to the trumpet. These two are a big influence on my playing because every time I heard them on a record I could identify with them. The way they approach/approached their compositions and solos is the way I would want to approach both.

Compositionally I am also influenced by Robert Glasper. The direction he is going in music is one I gravitate to. His albums have a template that I would like to follow once I release my album.

Lastly, what do you think about the Brass music market today and its place in the many genres of music?

I believe that brass music is coming back. When you watch the music industry today you see that everything is coming back full circle. Live instruments in general are once again creeping itself back into the mainstream of music. I think with the new advances people are beginning to see that there is a feeling that the music has when you use live instruments. I am excited to see where music will be 15 to 30 years from now. This is the time to start learning and playing an instrument especially a brass one.


3 Trackbacks

  • [...] James has been playing the trumpet since he was 12 years old. He was referred to Bruno through his mutual Morehouse colleague Kameron Whalum. At the very minimum, he practices 1.5 hrs to 3 hrs a day. His advice for young musicians?: [...]

  • By Bruno Mars lyrics and news on May 12, 2013 at 7:03 am

    [...] A day in the life of Bruno Mars' Trumpeter: James King [...]

  • By Anonymous on May 9, 2013 at 7:39 am

    [...] about a young trumpeter James King who has performed and recorded with jazz, pop and soul greats. A day in the life of Bruno Mars’ Trumpeter: James King [...]

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