Floyd Standifer

From Seattle comes news that Floyd Standifer died Monday night. The trumpeter, saxophonist and vocalist went into the hospital in late December for treatment of a shoulder problem. Doctors discovered that his shoulder pain came from cancer that had spread to his lungs and liver, and that his circulation was defective. Two weeks following a leg amputation, his heart gave out. He was seventy-eight.
Floyd Standifer
Standifer spent most of his career in the Pacific Northwest, but musicians everywhere–particularly trumpet players–knew of him. His Seattle Repertory Jazz Orchestra colleague and former trumpet student Jay Thomas said today, “Floyd was always, as far back as I can remember, Seattle’s pride and joy. As a lyrical trumpeter, on a good night he had few peers.”
In a December Rifftides piece about a recent Standifer concert, I mentioned his tour of duty in the trumpet section of the great Quincy Jones band of the late 1950s and early ’60s.

On the Quincy Jones DVD in the new Jazz Icons series, Standifer solos in the trumpet section with Clark Terry, Benny Bailey and Lennie Johnson. When Jones formed the band, he hired Floyd along with two more of Quincy’s Seattle pals, bassist Buddy Catlett and pianist Patti Bown.

After the premature end of the Jones band, Standifer returned to his place as a mainstay of Seattle’s music establishment, playing trumpet, flugelhorn and tenor saxophone, and singing. Thomas recalls the late saxophonist Freddie Greenwell–another Seattle musician respected in national jazz circles–saying that he considered Standifer one of the best singers in the country.
In that December piece, I alluded to the Northwest Jazz Workshop, a sort of musicians co-op to which Floyd and I belonged in the mid-1950s. I was eighteen, struggling to become a jazz player. In a rehearsal band that mixed professionals with strivers like me, I found myself seated in the trumpet section next to Floyd. My previous big band experience involved Sousa marches. Confronted with the third trumpet part in an arrangement of Shorty Rogers’ “Elaine’s Lullaby,” I was terrified. It contained sixteen bars of chord symbols and otherwise empty space–a solo for the third trumpet. I looked at the old man next to me. He was twenty-four, ancient to someone my age. Floyd saw the look in my eyes, put his hand on my knee and said, “Don’t think about it, just play.” When it came time to cross that sixteen-bar Mojave Desert, I just played. At the end of the run-through, Floyd gave me a big smile. I have no idea what was in the solo, whether it was adequate or a disaster, but I will never forget that smile. And it is most unlikely that I will forget Floyd.
For a summary of Floyd Standifer’s life and career, read this 2002 article by Jessica Davis in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.

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  1. John Simpson says

    Floyd was an extraordinary musician on trumpet, flugelhorn, tenor sax and as a vocalist. He was a warm and wonderful human being and one of the most talented musicians ever. His passing will leave a hole in the Pacific NW jazz scene that cannot be filled. He was one of a kind. Floyd came to Kalispell last May and back again in September, reunited with Billy Wallace. As usual, he connected with many new fans as only Floyd could do. He will be greatly missed by all who heard him and recognized what a gift he had, and even more so by those who knew him and realized what a gift he was.
    John Simpson & Miriam Singer, Singer & Simpson Productions,
    Kalispell, MT

  2. Jessica Davis says

    Thanks for posting a link to my article on Floyd Standifer. For those interested, there will be a viewing of Floyd on Jan. 31st from noon to 6 p.m. at the Dayspring-Fitch Funeral Home at 5503 Rainier Ave. S. Their phone number is 206-723-8955. His funeral will take place on Thursday, Feb. 1st at 11 a.m. at the Mt. Zion Baptist Church on 19th & Madison St. Both of these services will take place in Seattle.

  3. says

    Thanks for that story, we’ll sorely miss him.
    I loved Floyd’s playing… on all instruments, and even without an instrument, Floyd knew how to light up a room.
    -Barrett Wilke

  4. Steve Swanson says

    I studied trumpet with Floyd in the early 70’s. He was instrumental in getting me into Berklee as well. I later played with Lionel Hampton, Buddy Rich, Lou Rawls, Wayne Cochran and the CC Riders, Frank Sinatra and many more. I always kept in touch with him. A tremendous loss for me personally. This is what I posted in the Seattle Post Intelligencer:
    Floyd was my second father. It will take awhile for this one to sink in. I remember one time while I was stuck in NYC while playing for Buddy Rich, Buddy decided to take an extended vacation and left the whole band to fend for themselves. I called Floyd when he was on the Seattle Local Musicians Union. He told me there were emergency funds available for such circumstances earlier. However, when I called him he said that the funds had “dried” up. He sent me $200 out of his pocket for me to take a train home.
    There are too many kindness stories about Floyd, his generosity, sense of humor, history and deep understanding of the human condition to even attempt to put into words. I sat with him at Don Lanphere’s memorial service and he was dressed impeccably, as usual. His honor, respect for his fellow comrads and style, of an unfortunately bygone era, tells a story and lesson to me, to how to try and live my life as well. Not just his music, but his humanity. I always tried to keep in touch with him. Maybe a bit too often at times, but he understood. This is a tremendous loss to the Seattle and world community of musicians. And to me personally, a very monumental one. I know he is playin’, cracking jokes and “bein’ Floyd” up there with the best musicians ever. Gabriel needs to move down one chair, or as Floyd would have said, “just dovetail a bit”. Be Blessed Floyd.
    Steve Swanson
    Seattle, WA

  5. says

    I had just stumbled across across your site undertaking some research on the trumpet and Floyd. Whilst its been some time I would like to echo your thoughts – Floyd was a truly fantastic musical soul,with the amazing musicality, and is truly missed.

    • says

      I stumbled myself going through memorabilia, across a beautiful letter Floyd wrote to my step dad, Roger Guerin, the French jazz trumpet player. Floyd played with Roger in the late 50’s & toured with him in Quincy Jones band. My step Dad & Floyd became very good friends & in this letter, Floyd recalls with joy his gigs in the happening Jazz clubs of the time in the famous Quartier Latin of Paris. Roger & Floyd toured in Europe with Quincy Jones & from his letter seemed to have had lots of great fun memories!

      In 2007, Floyd was supposed to come to France in the Southwest region of The Camargue to visit my step Dad & his wife Lily. But unfortunately he passed away before. I thought this data would be of interest to those who knew Floyd. My step Dad passed away the 6th of February 2011, he was 85. He gave his last concert in January 2011. He is also truly missed by his family, musicians & friends but remains alive in our hearts as a great musician, teacher & man.

      A bit of the background where I come from; which is a long line of Jazz musicians & singers, my Dad was the Jazz pianist Bernard Peiffer & passed away too soon. My Mom, Monique Aldebert & other Step Dad, Louis Aldebert, sang in the famous group the Double Six of Paris. My parents based themselves in Los Angeles where they sang in clubs, gave concerts & produced their own songs & records. They are still living in LA to this day. Vive la musique! Vive le Jazz!