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February 2010

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What happens when you play a gig, a crappy one that you only take because you need the work, and the leader turns and smiles at you? A leader that totally sucks, but wants you to smile back like he's playing something worthwhile. Here's how I see it: he can afford to hire me, and I have the skills to make his music sound the way he likes. Isn't that enough? Do I also have to make him feel good about himself? A prostitute would probably say, "That was great, honey," or some such crap, but is that part of my job description, too? I'm fine with playing however a leader wants me to, and I'm able to hide my pain even when I'm miserable, but I don't want to pretend to be having a good time when I'm not. Chris S., Seattle



Dear Mr. P.C.:

Sometimes at the end of a gig as I'm packing up to leave, one of the guys will turn to me and compliment the way I played. More often than not, it's the worst player in the band, and I'd be lying if I returned the compliment. I pride myself on being an honest guy, but I also don't want to hurt anyone's feelings. What am I supposed to do? Anthony



Dear Chris and Anthony:

Imagine this: Mr. P.C. is in a funk. Maybe he's been receiving letters more troubling than entertaining, giving him a major-seven-on-a-dominant-seventh-chord type of headache. He goes for a walk to clear his mind. From the first person he passes, a friendly smile; Mr. P.C. smiles back. From the next, a warm greeting, which Mr. P.C. returns with all the good grace he can muster. Why? Because even on a bad day, Mr. P.C., by his very charter, is all about love, harmony and good will toward man/womyn.

"But this is different!" you cry, in voices just far enough from unison to set my head throbbing. Make no mistake, guys—I do understand where you're coming from. You've taken the jazz vow, a path to enlightenment that involves selfless dedication and constant sacrifice. You offer your music to the world as a gift, and in exchange you ask only that you might live unsullied by the petty indignities and personal compromises that plague more earthly lifestyles.

Well, it's a wonderful journey you're taking, but when you finally reach the lofty heights you aspire to, and you look back down that path, do you want to see it strewn with the discarded carcasses of lesser musicians? Is music really more important than your fellow artists? And if you've outgrown compromise, why are you taking gigs with players so far behind you in their musical evolution? Money appears to trump your artistic ideals. Let's see: Music over humanity, money over music... We can use the Transitivity of Inequalities to come up with your personal values hierarchy: Money at the top, music in the middle, humanity dead last. That suggests to me that there's still plenty of room for growth in your spiritual quest; what better way to kick-start it than with a detoxifying Master Cleanse?

Have a question for Mr. P.C.? Ask him.


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