After 30 years on the job, renowned trombonist and educator Hal Crook is retiring from Boston’s Berklee College of Music. He’ll celebrate the milestone on February 18 with a concert at Berklee Performance Center. The show will include several of Crook’s former students, among them bassist/singer Esperanza Spalding, guitarist Lionel Loueke, pianist Leo Genovese and saxophonist Chris Cheek. Also on the bill is Behind These Eyes, Crook’s pop-jazz band featuring alumna vocalist Deborah Pierre along with students, alumni and Boston-based players. Additional artists will be announced soon.
Crook has influenced countless jazz musicians during his career. By diversifying his teaching methods with rigorous training in jazz theory and performance exercises, he has helped many of the world’s best-known jazz improvisers to discover their own voice and style. In addition to Spalding, Genovese, Loueke and Cheek, he has taught Roy Hargrove, Antonio Sanchez, and Danilo Perez, Ingrid Jensen, Mark Turner, Miguel Xenon, Julian Lage and many others.
“Hal is a living example of the quintessential no-nonsense, bad mofo,” says Spalding. “That seems to be the rarest breed of human on the planet these days. He’ll play you under the table … on trombone! Can you believe it? And then tell you exactly where you’re weak and/or why you’re stuck in your development as a player. And he’ll tell you straight up so you know exactly what to go home and work on. In fact, I think I’ll finally go start shedding the stuff he told me to work on, because I have to play this ‘All Hail the Great Hal Crook’ concert in a few weeks, and I don’t want to sound like an ass.”
Upon graduating from Berklee in 1971, Crook established an active playing career throughout the United States, Europe and Asia, performing with Clark Terry, the Phil Woods Quintet, Bob Brookmeyer, James Brown, Tony Bennett, Woody Herman, Lionel Hampton, Paul Motian and Mick Goodrick and others. He composed, arranged and performed for the NBC Tonight Show Orchestra. More than 40 albums list Crook as a leader or sideman, including Phil Woods’ 1997 Grammy-nominated album Celebration.
Crook taught at Berklee briefly in the mid-1970s before rejoining the faculty in 1986. His four books on jazz improvisation and his numerous play-along recordings are distributed throughout the world and continue to influence thousands of players. He founded music schools in Rhode Island and San Diego, and taught at the University of California in Los Angles and San Diego. He has been a Visiting Artist in Residence at the Thelonious Monk Institute, and at the Dave Brubeck Institute. Crook will continue to teach privately at his studio in Attleboro, Massachusetts.
“The Music of Hal Crook: Set Me Free” takes place Thursday, February 18, at 8 p.m. at the Berklee Performance Center, 136 Massachusetts Avenue, Boston. Tickets at $12, $18 and $24, and are on sale now at the Berklee Performance Center box office, and Berklee.edu/bpc. The concert is part of Berklee’s 2016 Signature Series.
Photo credit: Lucy Cobos