No not improvisation sessions. Nor a tune sung by Bob Marley.... I'm talkin about the end of gig, no holds barred, spit the loud high note out JAM THE DAMN HORN DOWN YOUR MOUTH and make sure I don't miss it and look stupid. THAT kind of jammin...
I was lucky enough to chat with Bruce Johnstone in 1974. Somewhere up Route 1 in Beverly, MA. He was the outstanding baritone sax player w/Ferguson band during those power days of the mid seventies. Those were the HEAVY years with Lyn Nicholson, Stan Mark and Bob Summers trumpet players on the band. That and maybe Billy Graham on trombone.
Though not a trumpet player Bruce was well acquainted with Maynard's ways. To which he said that Maynard once said and of which I (loosely) quote:
"If on on the tail end of a six week tour, ten hour bus ride, in cold of winter on the last set? I will jam the damn horn down my throat if that's what it takes to finish a gig".
Bruce is a great guy. He also said that "Maynard will die playing the trumpet" and it pretty much almost happened. Just sitting there at the bar with Bruce Johnstone. he claimed that "Maynard saved me from a life of doing endless beer commercials 'down under' ..."
So what's my take on heavy arm pressure? The problem with arm pressure is that, well it kinda 'works' to some extent. Thus like alcohol, Vicodin or jelly doughnuts tends to be habit forming if one is not careful. Although despite what you think it is not necessary to use arm pressure to hit high notes on a well conditioned set of chops. Instead it is used to get VOLUME on high notes and most especially as a way of getting volume on high notes AT THE END OF A GIG.
Doubt this? Let me state emphatically that if you can not play most of your register with minimal mouthpiece contact pressure then you're probably not much of a lead player. Else how you going to consistently slam out High F's and such for three sets? This doesn't mean that you must avoid arm pressure when on a gig. I'm just saying that in practice you probably ought to be able to play up to and around a High F at a substantial or at least a mezzo forte-ish volume with only slight contact pressure. Saving the heavy stuff for the louder high notes on a gig. Or at least strive to have all your High C's and D's with mild arm pressure at good strong volume. Now them's some CHOPS kids...
Anyway don't obsess on that thought. There are some strong lead players who jam everything. Problem is they generally don't last the long haul and really can't play above a High G much. Not that the inability to play musically above a High G is a detraction. It isn't.
Sometime around 1974 or so I read a music news report of Maynard and he said:
"If you can't play your high notes softly you're doing something wrong"...
Hidden in this statement is a great secret to playing high notes on the trumpet. Something perhaps better LEARNED than explained. To me it means that although I may jam at times to cover my part I must be able to play high notes softly and with little arm pressure. At least in practice. I strive to just get a piece of my high notes in practice. They're part of my warm up even. When my buddies in the section are burning their chops out with lip trill warm ups? I'm lightly caressing the High C to A above with wispy little squeakers. Right with the horn resting on palm of my hand. As in Roy Stevens.
That's about my usable range now. High A. Maybe a B to C as a cap note once in a while. Likening the concept similar to Jack Nicklaus when he said of his golf:
"Range is not my problem"
The wisdom in Nicklaus's statement is that he practiced his short game, irons, putting, chip shots. Not his drives. Sure he could hit 300 yards off the tee but he didn't work on hitting it 400. Why bother? Other cats hit it farther but don't win so many tournaments as jack. Just ask John Daly.
Therein lies the problem with excessive arm pressure on the trumpet: Screws up your "short game" ie flexibility, accuracy, control. Even intonation.
So feel free to use arm pressure on your gigs if you must but limit it in rehearsal and hardly ever use in practice. If you have a heavy set of gigs and end up jammin a lot? Take a day or two off. In rehearsal I will jam a bit but mostly as a way of testing my resilience for the gig. Meaning that I must know ahead of time if I have the stuff to last the most difficult charts through and through. While I do farm out almost half my lead charts to Dennis there may come a day when I will have to carry the load myself and vice versa.
Which leads me to one last digression on this already far too rambling post: one of my favorite things to do is pass the lead book around to the other cats in the section. Helps morale. If you're the lead player you should do this too. Not just to help morale but to help yourself when you get fatigued. Then the other boys know they gotta carry the load too. Dennis saved my ass last June when I got a Kanker sore right under the gum of my upper lip. Sandwiched between my upper teeth and the inner rim of my mouthpiece. Couldn't get a note of the horn for a week.
Also, when meeting friends both old and new in the nightclub? Always introduce your trumpet mates as a "strong lead player". Helps his ego.
Meanwhile? Keep Jammin if you must. We all do from time to time. but keep an eye out for abuse.