Al Porcino, whose powerful sound and ability to hit the highest of high notes with ease brought him work as the lead trumpeter in some of the most celebrated big bands in jazz, died on Dec. 31 in Munich. He was 88.
The cause was a fall, said his wife, Erna Tom.
From the 1940s into the ’70s, Mr. Porcino held the first trumpet chair in the bands of Count Basie, Woody Herman, Stan Kenton and Buddy Rich, among others. He also led his own ensembles, including one that accompanied the singer Mel Tormé on the Grammy-nominated 1975 album “Live at the Maisonette.”
He moved to Munich after leaving the Thad Jones-Mel Lewis band during a European tour in 1977, and led a big band there under his name that had been performing regularly until shortly before his death.
As the first trumpet in bands that typically consisted of about 15 musicians, Mr. Porcino’s job was to lead not just his section but, in effect, the entire ensemble in executing the often complex arrangements, making sure they were played with precision exactly as written. “I never had great technique on the horn,” he told Marc Myers of the website JazzWax in 2011. “But many different arrangers liked how I played their music and handled the trumpet section. I could swing.”
His fellow musicians did not share that view of his technique. Indeed, they tended to speak of his musicianship in almost reverential terms.
In addition to his work with big bands, Mr. Porcino was an active studio musician in both New York and Los Angeles, working with the likes of Frank Sinatra, Ray Charles and Peggy Lee and on movie soundtracks.
Angelo Paul Porcino was born in Brooklyn on May 14, 1925, and grew up in Weehawken, N.J. He studied trumpet in high school and began playing professionally in his teens.
“I received a draft notice, but I wasn’t inducted because I’m colorblind,” he told Mr. Myers. “But I played at a lot of Army bases for the troops. The big impact of the war on me was that I was called for an audition with Louis Prima when I wasn’t yet 18 years old. That’s because all the older guys were in the Army fighting.”
His work with the Herman and Kenton bands in the late 1940s established his reputation as a high-note specialist. “You play the melody, and your horn is heard on top of the band,” he said in 2011. “You’re the high note. As a result, you can’t afford to make a mistake.”
He worked again with both bands in the 1950s, as well as with Count Basie and Charlie Parker.
In addition to his wife, Mr. Porcino is survived by two daughters, Debra Ogorzaly and Gia Krietzberg; four grandchildren; and three great-grandchildren.