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

June 2010

By Published: June 7, 2010
Now, reading your letter makes me feel even more foolish; our enthusiasm was misplaced, and our analysis shallow. A little sociological inquiry tells me that the Death With Dignity act bodes poorly for the future of jazz. So I'll assume the role of pundit here, though I've sworn off politics ever since my failed run for junior high student council. That tragic episode merits a separate column, but suffice to say it was a painful early defeat for my progressive agenda. It was also the first time I found myself profoundly disheartened by the meager social awareness of my peers, a disappointment that's become a recurring pattern in my life.

Of course I detest labels—a slippery slope toward stereotypes—but I need to start by defining two subspecies of the jazz genus. Those who would throw "Brown-Eyed Girl" into the middle of an acoustic jazz set, with no guilt toward their jazz forbearers, will be known as "Gig Whores" (per the seminal essay, Careers in Jazz). And those righteous individuals like yourself, who prefer to take the high road, we'll call "Jazz Warriors." With that in mind:
  1. In a Death With Dignity state, only Jazz Warriors will take their lives; it will be business as usual for the Gig Whores.

  2. As the ranks of Jazz Warriors are thinned, the state's fragile jazz ecosystem will be destroyed. (A balanced population, it turns out, is essential to keeping the system in check). Suddenly, Gig Whores will flood the state, drawn by the clarion call of "Moondance/Mustang Sally/Soul Man" medleys resounding throughout the land. As the Gig Whores' numbers swell and they compete ruthlessly among themselves for gigs, musical standards will further plummet.

  3. With the state's jazz scene quickly becoming a musical cesspool, Jazz Warriors who haven't already killed themselves will either do so or flee to other states that have yet to pass the legislation. You may, at this point, find yourself hurrying back to Georgia.

  4. The country's jazz community will thereby be split into highly partisan states with little common ground or room for diplomacy, much like our ever-sharpening red/blue political divide.

  5. The greatest irony: Death With Dignity states today include all the jazz hotbeds—New York, California and Illinois, for starters. Jazz Warriors will have to relocate the art form to "safe states" where Assisted Suicide has been declared illegal, like... Alabama, Idaho and South Carolina. Can the seeds of jazz music's future be germinated and cultivated in such barren terrain? And can the poor Jazz Warrior, already carrying an unimaginable historical burden, endure in such an utterly alien environment? Picture a progressive, creative thinker, pulled from his beatnik bookstore audiences, secular spiritual centers, and natural food stores, now thrust into a hotbed of firearms, bible thumping and country music; the Real America. He is the sole hope for jazz music's survival, but his own survival is far from assured.

Deep and depressing stuff, Dan. Makes me want to, you know...

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