Hal Crook

617 747-8150
For media inquiries, see Media Relations.

"Good ensemble playing requires the ability to hear not only your own playing, but all the playing that is happening around you—to hear your musical relationship to the other players acutely, so that it informs and guides your musical actions. The more advanced your playing skills are, the more capable you will be of dividing your listening attention between yourself and the band."

"I advise beginning-level improvisers to study instrumental technique, music theory, piano, ear training, and harmony before—or as—they study improvisation. It is similar to how athletes must build extra body strength by working out, so that they can play a sport better."

"My teaching style is the same as my learning style, which is why I like to teach: I play music with a student, I observe and critique the results, I identify weaknesses in the playing, I break down bigger problems into manageable areas for correction, and I design exercises that target the problems. I demonstrate the exercises for the student, we practice the exercises together, and the student demonstrates the exercises."

"In my classes, I work with the best student improvisers on the planet. I like the challenge of continually staying in the best possible musical condition, so I can coach these super-advanced bands with authority. I also like to listen to new young players and think, 'Now how can I learn to play that?'"

"My musical performances continue to inform my teaching because by evaluating my performances I discover weaknesses in my playing, then find solutions that I can share with students. A major highlight in my performing career happened recently when I recorded the demonstration CD for my book, Beyond Time and Changes: A Player's Guide To Free Jazz Improvisation, with my former Berklee students."

Career Highlights


  • B.M., Berklee College of Music
  • Performances with Jerry Bergonzi, George Cables, Joe Diorio, Bill Dobbins, Joe Farrell, George Garzone, Mick Goodrick, Tom Harrell, Woody Herman, John Hicks, Milt Hinton, Thad Jones, Paul Motian, Adam Nussbaum, Lew Tabackin, Clark Terry, Bob Brookmeyer, Daniel Humair, John Medeski, and the Tonight Show Orchestra
  • RAM Records recording artist
  • Former member of the Phil Woods Quintet
  • Author of How to Improvise, How to Comp, and Ready, Aim, Improvise!, as well as Creative Comping for Improvisation play-along CDs
  • Master class instructor for Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz
  • National Endowment for the Arts fellowship recipient