Carl Saunders is a prolific composer and one of the finest jazz trumpeters of the 21st century. Saunders was raised in a musical family and began playing trumpet in the seventh grade. He discovered he had a natural ability, and learned to play mostly by ear. After graduating from high school, his mother (who sang for the popular Bobby Sherwood Orchestra and the Stan Kenton Orchestra) helped get him a job with the Kenton Orchestra when he was 18 years old. He spent much of 1961-62 on the road with Kenton.
Saunders then settled in Las Vegas and spent the next 20 years playing with countless show bands, including lead trumpet with Ella Fitzgerald, Tony Bennet and Frank Sinatra. Saunders also traveled as a lead player with Paul Anka and Robert Goulet, and with such bandleaders as Si Zentner, Harry James, Maynard Ferguson, Benny Goodman and Charlie Barnet.
In 1984, Saunders moved to Los Angeles and began playing lead trumpet with Bill Holman’s Orchestra, a position he still holds. Saunders also has worked with John Williams and the big bands of Bob Florence, Johnny Mandel, Gerald Wilson, and the Phil Norman Tentet. In 1994, he became a member of the Dave Pell Octet (in Don Fagerquist’s old chair). In addition, he is often heard at the head of his own groups including the Carl Saunders Be Bop Big Band, his sextet and a quartet.
Saunders has released five CDs: Out Of The Blue, Eclecticism, Bebop Big Band, Can You Dig Being Dug and The Lost Bill Holman Charts. Each one is a gem while being quite different from the others.
Saunders, who has inspired students and kids all over the world conducting clinics, says that he gets inspiration from them because they share his energetic dedication and passion toward the creation of beautiful music. Asked to define jazz, he says, “It’s a combination of intellectual funk and hypnotic swinging.”