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

January 2011

By Published: January 12, 2011
Now comes the intervention. Fortunately, a city the size of Detroit should have a twelve-step program tailored to recovering musicians, and your job is to get him to a meeting as quickly as possible. Drive your car up to the front door of the party, and yell from your window, "1953 Selmer Super Balanced!" He'll come running, along with all the other saxophonists, but of course you'll have already told them the plan. Once they push him inside, just slam the door shut, roll up the windows, and whisk him off.

The twelve-step program itself is quite simple. Each day, the facilitator plays one note of the chromatic scale, and the entire session is devoted to the note's intrinsic beauty and spirituality. The recovering saxophonist learns that glossing over the note in a fast run, or shrieking it out as if mortally wounded, is disrespecting a deity. By the end of the twelfth day, the saxophonist will be fully reverent of all twelve chromatic tones, and thus of music itself.

Of course, like methadone to a heroin addict, the treatment that is the saxophonist's salvation may become its own addiction. You're likely to find a recovering saxophonist cloistered in a small practice room, misty-eyed, working on "long tones." This morbid exercise replicates the life cycle of a solitary note: The saxophonist gently births the note, lovingly raises it to maturity, sustains it as long as possible, then—now clinging to it protectively, breath running short—brings it to a soft landing, only to sadly acknowledge its mortality. Should your friend go this route after treatment, there is nothing more you can do; rest easy knowing you've at least brought him to a better place.

P.S. Saxophonists in smaller cities, who lack direct access to a suitable twelve-step program, should be directed to Overplayers Anonymous.

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


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