Randy Brecker on practicing during the COVID-19 lockdown

I remember sitting in the back of a large music classroom at the University of Redlands in California almost three years ago. Jiggs Wigham was talking about all things trombone at that year’s International Trombone Festival.

Jiggs said something early on that has stuck with me ever since. He said, “I hate to practice.” I immediately felt bad for him and was glad that I really LOVE to practice.

If I didn’t love to practice, my trombone playing would sound as sad as it did in high school. Let’s just say it wouldn’t be impressive. But Jiggs IS impressive so no matter how he did it, he made himself into a great trombone player.

On a video call with Randy Brecker this morning, I was reminded of Jigg’s comment. I asked Randy what he is doing during this lockdown and social distancing period to keep his playing sharp.

One thing I’ve learned from conducting the interviews for Jazz Master Summit is that skill on one’s instrument comes from practice. It comes from doing the necessary work. Randy once asked John Faddis how he played those high notes and Faddis’ reply was that the secret is… that there’s no secret. It’s about figuring it out and then doing it over and over and over until you get really good at it.

I think there’s another aspect of getting good that I constantly hear from great players. They have an itch they can’t seem to ever scratch for continually getting better, and a recognition that gaps exist in their playing that they must plug.

As you listen to Randy talk about his playing, you might think you’re listening to an average trumpet player who’s aware that he needs to woodshed his technique. But it’s not. This is from a guy who just this week received his latest shiny Grammy to add to his collection. Do you think his work ethic might have anything to do with being awarded seven Grammys?

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