Marcus Belgrave, Famed Detroit Jazz Trumpeter, Dies at 78

Marcus Belgrave, who was often seen as the patriarch of the Detroit jazz community, died Sunday. He was 78.

Hazelette Crosby-Robinson, a cousin of Belgrave’s wife, Joan, told the Associated Press that the musician died from heart failure in an Ann Arbor, Mich., care facility.

In his decades-long career, Belgrave played with Aretha Franklin, Ray Charles, Joe Cocker, Dizzy Gillespie and a wide array of other voices in the motown scene. He was also associated with jazz royalty such as Max Roach and Charles Mingus.

Belgrave was born in Chester, Penn., and began playing professionally at 12 years old. He joined The Ray Charles Band in the late ’50s, before moving to Detroit in 1962.

Belgrave would go on to become a studio musician for Motown Records and played on such hits as “The Way You Do the Things You Do,” “My Girl” and “Dancing in the Street.”

The trumpeter co-founded Tribe Records in Detroit after Motown Records moved to California in the early ’70s. Aside from his studio work, Belgrave was known for an unmistakeable performance style, with a charming stage presence and an ability to soulfully improvise.

Belgrave was also heavily involved in education, serving as a professor or visiting artist at Michigan State University, University of California, Stanford University, Oberlin College and several Detroit-area schools.

He was one of the original members of the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra when he joined in 1988. In 2009, the Kresge Foundation feted Belgrave with the Eminent Award.

“Detroit has lost a piece of its soul with the passing of Marcus Belgrave, who proudly embraced the city and its musical community as his own,” Kresge president and CEO said in a statement. “He exemplified artistic excellence – the individuality, creativity and openness to those qualities in others that are essential to jazz and a model for living.”

Along with his wife, Belgrave is survived by two daughters and two sons.

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