Bobby Spellman

trumpeter, improviser, composer, educator

Photo: Peter Gannushkin

Photo: Peter Gannushkin

Bobby Spellman is an inventive improviser, an eclectic composer, a dynamic performer, and a dedicated educator. Known primarily as a trumpet player, Bobby can also be found performing on cornet, flugelhorn, and the elusive and quizzical soprano trombone. A consummate improviser, he is at once a devoted student of the jazz tradition and an avid proponent of the avant-garde. Bobby’s boundless love for organized sound brought him from a formal education in philosophy to the graduate program in jazz studies at the New England Conservatory of Music, where he was fortunate to work with innovative improvisers Jerry Bergonzi, John McNeil, Dave Holland, Ran Blake, Joe Morris, and Rakalam Bob Moses. During several post-graduate years living in his native Boston, Bobby had the opportunity to play with some of the most adventurous groups in town, including the Either/Orchestra and Charlie Kohlhase’s Explorer’s Club, in many of Boston’s finest jazz venues: Sculler’s, Ryles, the Lily Pad, and the Outpost.

In addition to his work in the world of improvised music, Bobby has performed in the horn sections of legendary Motown artists the Temptations and the Four Tops. He has performed with or written for reggae groups including John Brown's Body, Giant Panda Guerilla Dub Squad, Mosaic Foundation, and Kevin Kinsella. For seven formative years, Bobby worked as the trumpeter and composer for Ithaca, NY-based Afrobeat project Big Mean Sound Machine, resulting in an extensive touring schedule and the completion of seven full-length studio albums.

Beyond his work as a trumpeter, Bobby is known as an imaginative composer and a burgeoning theorist. Having spent several years closely studying George Russell’s Lydian Chromatic Concept of Tonal Organization under composer and theorist Ben Schwendener, Bobby strives to use new paradigms in music theory to find the common ground uniting diverse musical traditions from around the globe, from European classical music and American jazz to the music of Ethiopia and West Africa, Eastern Europe, South Asia, and beyond. With creative intuition and the Lydian Chromatic Concept as his guide, Bobby uses his various groups as laboratories for experiments fusing jazz composition with free improvisation, functional harmony with exotic modality.

Today, Bobby lives in Brooklyn, NY where he maintains a busy schedule teaching and performing while leading several active groups, including his Revenge of the Cool Nonet and the Dingonek Street Band.