I would appreciate your candid advice on a recurring issue I've been having. As a trombone player, my slide has occasionally speared someone at my gigs. Once I even managed to mangle the manager of the hotel! What do you recommend to avoid these awkward moments:
- Yellow traffic cones marking the "danger zone"?
- Soft padding on the end of the slide? or
- Attaching a bayonet and skull & bones flag to forewarn wayward cha-cha-ers to gimme some distance!
AHEM! AHEM! That's the sound of me clearing my throat, twice. Of course we all know that nobody actually says "ahem" when they're clearing their throat, but there's simply no way to replicate it on the written page. My best is "ckuhuh humnn!" Not great, I know, but it's as good as anything I've seen. It just show how sadly inadequate the written word is, doesn't it? Yet that's how people like us are forced to communicate; a compromised conversation from the start. Ah, but now you're taking me deep, Rich, bringing out Mr. Profound Cat. So seldom does anyone plumb my depths, though spiritually I am an oceanic trench.
The point is this: A lot of people (and I might not be one of them) think that the trombone sounds like someone clearing his throat ("ckhuhuh humnn!" if you will). If that's the case, does it really matter what notes you play? And, with that in mind, couldn't you just skip the ones that involve pushing that thing outslide, position, whatever? That would save you a lot of unnecessary prep timeclever though your suggestions may beand keep everyone around you safe. Another option, perfectly suited to the trombone, would be simply not to play at all.
Dear Mr. P.C.:
Whenever I pick up my horn to play, I feel like I don't have any chops. Matt, New York
It's the human condition; our expectations are set too high and our performance is never good enough. Before I embraced homeopathy, I felt the same way about my bowel program.
Dear Mr. P.C.:
When a club owner wants you and your group to play free gigs (citing all the wonderful "exposure" you'll be getting, even though the club is a roach motel with disturbing olfactory hints of a Jeffrey Dahmer type having left samples under the bandstand, along with an overall vibe of "vintage trash dumpster"):
What's the best way to tell this gentleman (in a thoroughly professional manner, of course) to place his reproductive organ firmly in his own anus? Phil Kelly
Like many who see Mr. P.C. as a role model, you're probably wondering how I got herewhether I've been a harmonious citizen of the Earth from the very beginning. Well, I'll confess that I committed my fair share of sins against mother Gaia; none worse than my childhood passion for burning earthworms with a magnifying glass. When I later learned about karma, I knew I had a lot of catching up to do. In that sense, nothing has shaped my quest to be a force for good more than my early brutalization of the worm.
What was it about earthworms? Surely there's no dirtier, slimier species (though you make a good case for club owners), but it was more than that. The way they could split in half and become two living beings was both magnificent and frightening. It was also thought-provoking: Could bait stores and worm farms double their profits by cutting worms in half? Quadruple profits by slicing them again? What terrifying machinery would do the dirty work, and how far could it go before the new worms were stillborn?
But even beyond that, I was obsessed with the fact that each worm contains a fully mature set of sexual organs from both genders. Surreal visions of a worm somehow mating with itselfseparate from or in conjunction with reproduction by scissors or shovel bladeplagued my childhood thoughts. I guess my adult self had merely repressed all that, because your letter has triggered a new flood of troubling images. So, I have to ask... this club owner of yours: Is he an anatomical anomaly, or some sort of exotic yoga master? I'm a yoga enthusiast myself, as you might guess, but auto-erotic hermaphroditic poses are new to me. This whole concept of selfing flies in the face of my belief in community, but I'll have to admit I'm intrigued...
Dear Mister Politically Correct:
I play in a trio led by a guitarist. We play standards and some original material, and I'm pretty content. The only problem is that the leader plays r-e-a-l-l-y l-o-n-g solos. Solos that make the Jazz at the Philharmonic jams sound like Haiku by comparison. I figure that, if I'm bored, the audience may well be, too. So what should I do? Tell him he's lyrically loquacious? Ask him to stifle his strings? Tell him his soliloquies suck? Ask him to inhibit his improvisations? Or should I just lie back, close my eyes, and enjoy it? signed, Blind Or Really Easily Distracted
Your last sentence leaves me feeling uncentered. First of all, there's only one instrument in a guitar trio that would allow you to "lie back." It couldn't be an upright bass, which by definition can never be prone. That means you must be a drummer, and the challenge to gravity seems daunting at best, dangerous at worst. I wonder: Do they make recumbent drums? I love my recumbent bicycle, so green and chiropractically correct; I suppose the pedal, at least, could be reconfigured for a bass drum. But a dropped stick could poke your eye out, and the cymbals would loom dangerously.
Second, it concerns me that you would resign yourself to trying to "enjoy" the long-winded solos that bore you. So I offer this challenge: Will you forever wallow in the mundane, or are you ready to make your life a daring adventure? The drummer's stool isn't called a throne for nothing, my friendyou are the king of the bandstand! Nobody on stage has more power than you, whether in the service of good or evil. Dragging, rushing, and bashing are just a few of the game-changing tools in your palette, and if the music needs shaking up, you're the guy to do it. True, the guitarist has an amp, but you have unencumbered range of motion and a muscle shirt. Plus, you can always go for the heavy wood; as a famous thinker once said, "Speak softly, and carry a big stick." I think it was Neal Peart, or Theodore Roosevelt, or Johnny Wadd, maybe? The point is this: You, alone, have control of your destiny; empowerment is yours for the taking.
Dear Mr. P.C.:
I find it a little funny that people in the jazz field seem to be unable to laugh at themselves. What's up with that? Julie, Kansas City
Do you have any idea how hard it is to make a living in jazz, how deep and challenging the music is, and how few people appreciate it? Do you find that "funny," too? Have a great day, okay?
Dear Mr. P.C.:
Sometimes when a jazz musician or audience member in my city dies, his relatives hold a memorial open to the jazz community. Is it okay for me to pass out flyers there promoting an upcoming gig of mine? Marc
Only with permission from the deceased. For the proactive self-promoter, Mr. P.C. offers the following tips: Visit the deceased, prior to his passing, in his home or hospital room. Bring candy, recreational drugs, money, or anything else that you know could brighten his day (if you've never met him, ask his friends or family for suggestions).
If possible, you should avoid mentioning the "D" word directly; he might consider it to be a sign of bad taste. Instead, talk about the weather, sports, even jazzanything to promote an atmosphere of conviviality and trust. At some point, the opportunity to get his blessing will present itself; trust me, you'll know when it comes. From there, it's easy: "You know (insert name of not-yet-deceased), I'm not saying you're not looking so good, but I'm just wondering if, when you passand I know that might not be anytime soon maybe I could hand out flyers promoting my next gig?"
The beauty of this plan is that, even if you inadvertently visit someone who isn't actually dying, you'll make a new friend!
Have a question for Mr. P.C.? Ask him.