Carl Saunders (born August 2, 1942) is a jazz trumpeter, composer, and educator who has worked with Stan Kenton, Buddy Rich, Bill Holman, and Clare Fischer, in addition to Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald, Mel Tormé, and Paul Anka.
Born in Indianapolis, Indiana, his first five years were mostly spent on the road. His uncle was trumpeter Bobby Sherwood, who was led the popular Sherwood Orchestra, having hits with "Elks Parade" and "Sherwood's Forest." Saunders's mother Gail (Bobby's sister) sang for the Sherwood Orchestra and Stan Kenton. When Saunders was five, he and his mother settled in Los Angeles, living with his aunt Caroline and her husband, saxophonist Dave Pell. He heard the records of the Dave Pell Octet and was influenced by the style and phrasing of trumpeter Don Fagerquist.
Saunders began playing trumpet in the seventh grade and he found that he had a natural ability, learning to play by ear and never having any lessons. He played in school bands, and after he graduated from high school he got a job with Stan Kenton's Orchestra. He auditioned for Kenton's band and was given a choice: wait for the first opening in the trumpet section or join the band the following week as a member of the mellophonium section. He chose the latter and spent much of 1961–62 on the road with Kenton. Said Saunders about the experience with the mellophonium band, "I had developed a perfect pitch. However, once I joined Kenton to play the mellophone, my whole system got mixed up, because the notes that I read sounded higher than what I was used to."
After spending part of 1962–63 traveling with Bobby Sherwood's group (playing drums), Saunders settled in Las Vegas where during the next twenty years he played with Ella Fitzgerald, Tony Bennett, and Frank Sinatra. He traveled as a lead player with Paul Anka and Robert Goulet and with Si Zentner, Harry James, Maynard Ferguson, Benny Goodman, Dan Terry, and Charlie Barnet.
In 1984, Saunders moved to Los Angeles where he was soon playing lead trumpet with Bill Holman's Orchestra. He has also worked with Supersax, the big bands of Bob Florence and 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.
- 1995 Out of the Blue
- 2000 Eclecticism
- 2002 Be Bop Big Band
- 2004 The Carl Saunders Sextet: Live in Union Square
- 2005 Can You Dig Being Dug?
- 2007 The Lost Bill Holman Charts
With Stan Kenton
- Sophisticated Approach (Capitol, 1961)
- Adventures in Blues (Capitol, 1961)
- Stan Kenton! Tex Ritter! (Capitol, 1962) with Tex Ritter
- Adventures In Jazz (Capitol, 1963)
With Gerald Wilson
- Theme for Monterey (MAMA, 1998)