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Mr. P.C.'s Guide to Jazz Etiquette...

December 2009

By Published: December 3, 2009
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 friend—you 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

Dear Julie:

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

Dear 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 jazz—anything 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 pass—and 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.

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