Thursday, February 1, 2018

The Bobby Hackett Method

When asked if he did anything special to prepare himself for a performance, the great jazz coronet player Bobby Hackett said, "I just go out there and try to do it right."

Hmm ... doesn't seem like an overly difficult job description. We could assume that the cornetist just hoped to make no outright mistakes. But for a musician of his calibre, mistakes are pretty much a non-issue. So what, then, did he mean by do it right?

Deciding what's right can be difficult. The difference between good and not-so-good is often subjective, and the interpretation can be very personal. And doing it right can include knowing what not to play.

Then there are the times when doing what's right isn't the right way to go. I'm sure you've been in a situation where the theoretically correct thing didn't work for that tune. It's also possible to miss opportunities when trying to play something 'by the book'. Playing with correct technique may not suit either. Then it's time to do it wrong, and that can be a great stimulus to creativity and discovery.

Here's the list I use to help me do it right:
  • Be as competent as I can be: Continue to grow musically and never stop learning
  • No mistakes or clunkers: Know the material inside-out
  • Right style, tradition: Assumes I've done my homework
  • Right energy, feel and passion: It has to work for the song and the context
  • No extraneous crap: Always be tasteful
  • Creative: Try to bring something new, fresh
  • 'Busyness' level: I've played too busy and also not busy enough!
A simple and always valid goal is to try to do it 'better than last time'. And if you are keeping all these other things in mind, then you're ready to go!