I saw Bobby Hackett perform a half-dozen times in the early Seventies, and he impressed me as a reserved, modest man — someone who didn’t want to take the first solo, someone for whom two choruses were enough. He wasn’t loud; he didn’t assert his right to the spotlight. But his modesty was balanced by the sweetness and quiet passion he created when he played. He loved the melody, but he also delighted in the harmonic melodies he could invent while getting through a one-bar passage between two possibly ordinary chords. And his sound. And his architectural sense: his playing seemed logical, thoughtful, but every note vibrated with warm love — of the melody, of the song, of the messages he could send to us. A vibrating serenity full of emotion.
I write all this as prelude to a performance he did late in life (he didn’t live a whole year after this) that was blessedly captured on film. It’s from the Nice Jazz Festival, July 21, 1975, a six-minute exploration of SWEET LORRAINE with Art Hodes, piano; Placide Adams, string bass; Panama Francis, drums. I have posted it before, but as part of a much longer “Dixieland” anthology where it was one of the few quiet moments. I urge you, even if you have seen and heard it before, to take time for beauty, the beauty Bobby so open-heartedly gave us. These moments are, as Bobby’s friend Eddie Condon said, “too good to ignore”:
Last night, the astronomers captured photographs of Jupiter and Saturn in the night sky, something that they say happens every eight hundred years. I offer this performance by Bobby as a cosmic marvel in its own way. There was no one like him, and he hasn’t been equaled or replaced. Nor will he be.
May your happiness increase!