A legend in his own time, Melton Mustafa Sr. was an American jazz trumpeter, arranger, composer, producer, educator and visionary. An accomplished musician and educator, he spent much of his adult life playing jazz with top name musicians and teaching the elements of jazz to aspiring youth.
For over 40 years he touched the lives of hundreds of students by sharing his love of music in diverse academic and community settings providing opportunities for youth to perform.
A native Miamian, Mustafa began playing trumpet in the eighth grade at Dorsey Junior High School; and writing and performing music professionally while attending Miami Northwestern Senior High School. As a teenager, he played in a five-piece R&B Calypso band led by his older brother, saxophonist Jesse Jones Jr.
After graduating from high school, Melton Mustafa attended Mississippi Valley State University before graduating Florida A&M University in 1969 with a bachelor’s degree in music education. Later, he attended the Berklee School of Music before graduating in 2000 from the University of Miami with a master’s degree in music.
Mustafa’s musical career in the late 1960s and ‘70s included backing up soul artists Sam and Dave, Betty Wright, Latimore, the Marvelettes and Joe Simon. In the 1980s and beyond, he played with well-known jazz musicians including the Count Basie Orchestra, Duke Ellington Orchestra, Woody Herman Orchestra, Bobby Watson, Jaco Pastorius, George Cables, John Hicks, Charlie Mingus Dynasty and Gunter Shuller.
Mustafa played internationally at the Playboy Jazz Festival, North Sea Jazz Festival, Ravina Jazz Festival, SS Norway Jazz Festival, Montreal Jazz Festival, Lugano Jazz Festival (Italy), Pori Jazz Festival, Charlie Mingus Epitaph Orchestra in Russia and many others.
Although there were offers for him to relocate, Mustafa always returned home, to Miami. With an entrepreneurial spirit he and his wife, Zakiyyah, established ZAKI Publishing, The Melton Mustafa Orchestra and MSM Arts, a nonprofit arts organization. Mustafa released three CDs as a big-band and small-band leader entitled “Boiling Point,” “St. Louis Blues” and “The Softer Side: Scenes from Miami Vol 1.”
The Melton Musta Orchestra was the regular entertainment in the 1990s at Athalie M. Range Foundation’s annual fundraising gala. Director Carmen Jackson recalled: “Melton Mustafa was a consummate musician and businessman. A great showman, he entertained our guests royally. ”
As an educator, Mustafa was director of jazz studies at Florida Memorial University where he taught music theory, jazz composition and other jazz-related courses. The curriculum included the fundamental understanding of jazz, its rich cultural history throughout the 20th century, and jazz as a contemporary art form.
In 1997 he produced the Melton Mustafa Jazz Festival at Florida Memorial University in Miami Gardens. Nearly a decade later in 2014, in partnership with MSM Arts and Florida Memorial University, the Melton Mustafa Jazz Festival joined with host sponsor, The Black Archives Historic Lyric Theater Cultural Arts Complex, ”to bring the swing back to Overtown.”
Preparing for the 2014 inaugural debut in Overtown, Mustafa said: “The Melton Mustafa Big Band is keeping the jazz tradition alive. The Ellington Band did, Count Basie and Charles Mingus did, and now I’m paving the way for young musicians to get on board and carry the torch.”
The festival he envisioned became an annual event and has continued for 21 years. Each year students engage with artists and authors, listen to live jazz and live bands and participate in workshops and masterclasses taught by experienced musicians.
In December, our community was saddened by Mustafa’s death at age 70. “We received expressions from around the the world as plans for the 21st annual Melton Mustafa Jazz Festival were being finalized,” said his son, Melton Mustafa Jr., himself a jazz musician, music educator and now the festival’s director.
This year, the 21st annual Melton Mustafa Jazz Festival weekend, “Live at the Lyric Theater,” through Sunday has the support of Miami Commissioner Keon Hardemon and the city’s Southeast Overtown Park West Community Redevelopment Agency, along with Connie Kinnard, vice president of Multicultural Tourism and Development at the Greater Miami Convention and Visitors Bureau.
The weekend began with an opening VIP reception/scholarship fundraiser followed by an art, authors, live jazz and film night. Saturday was filled with workshops and master classes with the live jazz performances.
Sunday’s finale will be a red carpet event where guests are encouraged to “dress to impress” at The Black Archives Historic Lyric Theater Lobby. Entry to the reception is free with the purchase of concert tickets at http://hrld.us/2otmzj5.
This show will feature musicians Nestor Torres, Winard Harper, Richie Cole, Ira Sullivan, Jesse Jones Jr., Wendy Pedersen, Jim Gasior, Melton Mustafa Orchestra, Dillard Center for the Arts, The New Vision Sax Ensemble, the Tri- County Honors Big Band conducted by Richard Beckford, the winners of the Melton Mustafa Jazz Combo Festival, Florida Memorial University Jazz Ensemble, New World School of the Arts, Florida Memorial University Gospel Choir conducted by Melvin White and many more.
Inheriting his father’s legacy, Mustafa, Jr. said: “Ultimately this is want he wanted, an annual festival to help prepare the next generation of jazz musicians and music educators to teach, learn and perform.”
Dorothy Jenkins Fields, PhD, is a historian and founder of the Black Archives, History and Research Foundation of South Florida Inc. Send feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org.
For festival information visit, www.meltonmustafa.com/jazz.