Ambrose Akinmusire

Doris Duke Artist Award, 2015
Doris Duke Impact Award, 2014

Los Angeles, CA

A spiritual seeker in the grand tradition of musical aspirationalists, Oakland native Ambrose Akinmusire’s recent work includes his second recording for Blue Note Records, the imagined savior is far easier to paint (2014). Named third on the 2014 NPR Music Jazz Critics' Poll, the recording broadens the palette of his quintet, adding guitar, strings, and vocals while also addressing social justice with compositions inspired by Trayvon Martin and other unnamed victims of racially charged violence. His two earlier albums were also met with critical acclaim. He received a Doris Duke Impact Award (2014), the Grand Prix de l'Académie du Jazz (2014), and was named 2012 Trumpet Player of the Year in theDownBeat Critics Poll and the JJA Jazz Awards. His forward-reaching compositions have earned him grants from the MAP Fund (2009) and the French-American Jazz Exchange (2009). Currently, he is a Commissioned Artist for the Monterey Jazz Festival (2015), Hyde Park Jazz Festival (2015), and the Kennedy Center (2016).

  • Photo Credit: R.R. Jones
  • Ambrose Akinmusire Quintet (Live Performance, 2014)
  • Inflated by Spinning (2013)
  • Marie (2011)
  • Photo Credit: Richard Conde

What are the creative challenges you face as an artist?

One of the biggest challenges I face as an artist is also one of the most frequent challenges faced by all artists, namely, the negotiation between committing oneself to one’s art and attending to life’s practical concerns. As an artist, I am constantly faced with decisions and opportunities in which I must come to terms with the need for financial security for myself and my family, and what I consider to be my life’s calling. Ultimately, the art—that encounter, that search, that risk—must come first, because everything else, practical and otherwise, derives from this element.