“The French horn is my natural voice”

Vincent Chancey’s 50-year career in music has been devoted to achieving wider recognition for the horn as a jazz instrument by overcoming the inherent challenges to adapt the French horn’s sound to the vocabulary of jazz. Vincent Chancey has released four albums as lead, and recorded with various artists on more than 350 albums and soundtracks.

Sun Ra Arkestra, 1980

Vincent Chancey grew up in Chicago, and after graduating from the Southern Illinois University School of Music, moved to New York to seek out long-time jazz French horn pioneer Julius Watkins. Chancey won a National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) grant to study with Watkins and after several years under his instruction joined the Sun Ra Arkestra as a regular member. After recording a number of albums with the ensemble, Chancey joined the Carla Bley Band for many international tours and recordings. He later joined Lester Bowie’s Brass Fantasy ensemble, toured Europe for years, the US, and Japan, and has been featured on all but one of the group’s nine recordings. Chancey is also featured on five albums with the David Murray Big Band and several albums with Muhal Richard Abrams.

Recordings as Lead

  • Welcome Mr. Chancey (1993)
  • Vincent Chancey and Next Mode (1996)
  • LEGenDES Imaginaires (2008)
  • The Spell (2020)

After years touring and practicing his craft, Vincent Chancey sought to write music that would best express himself and his instrument. Feeling that no one wrote for the French horn as he knew it could be played, Chancey assembled several bands over the years (band names), which led to his first album “Welcome Mr. Chancey” (1993). The album features a quartet of horn, electric guitar, bass and drums. 

Following his first album, Chancey moved to write music closer to that he had listened to as a developing jazz musician, classic jazz. He was asked to compose an album of music commemorating his jazz horn teacher, Julius Watkins, and his group, The Jazz Modes. In 1996 he recorded his second album, “Vincent Chancey and Next Mode,” featuring a quintet with horn, tenor saxophone, piano, bass, and drums.

Chancey recorded his third album in 2008 with French Guitarist Serge Pesc, entitled “LEGenDES Imaginaires”. Vincent Chancey’s latest album, released in 2020 and entitled “The Spell,” features a live set with bass and drums recorded in October, 1987 at the Kraine Art Gallery.

Other Work

After establish his reputation in the jazz scene, Vincent Chancey employed his talent with many other musicians including: Rufus Reid; Dave Douglas; Chick Corea; Cassandra Wilson; Carmen McRae; Shirley Horn; Mose Alison; Randy Weston & African Rhythms; the Gil Evans Orchestra; the Mingus Orchestra; the Carnegie Hall Jazz Orchestra; the Charlie Haden Liberation Music Orchestra; and the Diana Krall Orchestra.

In the Contemporary Classical idiom, he has worked with Guus Janssen the Dutch composer on various projects in The Netherlands. Projects ranging from trios, quartets, sextets, and two operas performed with the Netherlands Opera. He has also performed with classical ensembles: the Pan American Symphony, the Harlem Symphony; the Brooklyn Philharmonic; and the Zephyr Woodwind Quintet among others.

Chancey has also performed with many popular artists such as Ashford & Simpson, Melba Moore, Peggy Lee, Maxwell, Aretha Franklin, the Staple Singers, Freddy Jackson, Brandy, the Winans, David Byrne, Elvis Costello. In 2000, Chancey had the honor of performing for Pope John Paul II’s 80th birthday concert.

In 2013, Vincent Chancey was interviewed for The History Makers, selecting African American professionals who represent the finest work in their fields.