I am someone that tries to maintain as high a level of classical trumpet playing as jazz playing.  Call me obsessive-compulsive but I can’t “dabble” at anything.  If I can’t dive in and do something 100% I lose interest and would usually rather not do it at all.  There are a number of trumpet players out there like me “crossover players”, and this article is for you.  Actually, you will find a number of articles on this blog dealing with “crossover playing”; playing jazz and classical styles to your highest level.

Keeping your facility refined and at peak in both worlds is very difficult.  It is so difficult and frustrating that I don’t even try to do that anymore.  I have come to realize that elements of my playing will always be subject to a compromise.  When I am working toward a recital, or something “classically” demanding like a tough symphony concert, I realize and now accept (a little) that my jazz playing will not be in top form during that time.  And vise versa, during the summer jazz festival season my classical “refinement” might get a little dusty.  This is because I want to totally focus on that particular literature and style.  Working like this involves planning.  I have to know what my musical commitments are out on the horizon.  I am careful not to double book myself with important performances that have conflicting style demands.

Crossover Practice Suggestion

Prior to becoming a college professor, I was working as a freelance musician which of course meant playing many styles simultaneously.  However, when I was working up an audition I would not practice or take jazz gigs leading up to the audition.  During this “jazz sabbatical” I would work on jazz transcriptions.  Through the course of that time I transcribed literally hundreds of jazz trumpet solos.  Shameless plug: I have compiled many of them into books (pdf and published) and sell them here.

This practice of working on a transcription while practicing orchestral excerpts worked pretty well.  I was continuing to develop my jazz ear and immerse myself in to a particular player’s style and harmonic vocabulary.  Plus it was a nice break both physically and intellectually from the workout that is orchestral excerpts.

Working in the other direction is more problematic for me.  The only suggestion I have for maintaining your classical chops while working on jazz is that I sometimes listen to Hakan, Ole, Jouko or one of my classical heroes while I’m diving in to a jazz project.  I can’t do this too much though because so much of my jazz preparation involves concentrated listening.  It also requires a lot of muscle memory which is done through lots of repetitious practice which can really do a number on your subtle response.  Likewise, so much of my classical preparation involves my subtlety of response which requires careful, gentle playing.  Can you see the dilemma?

There just aren’t enough hours in the day…

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