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

Mr. P.C.'s Best of 2011

By Published: December 2, 2011
Speaking of politicians, this particular issue brings out a strong partisan divide. Democrats, motivated by a sense of equality and commitment to community, roll up their sleeves and take the plunge, though they inevitably wind up covered in shit (as Democrats so often are). Republicans, motivated by a love of liberty and commitment to the free market system, quickly flee the restroom to get back to work, leaving the shit behind for others to clean up (as Republicans so often do).

Now I'm not one to wear my politics on my sleeve, but if the Green Party were in power, this whole mess would have ended before it began. How? Two words: clivus multrum, the loveable, futuristic composting toilet. Nothing says "Let's end two-party politics as we know it" better than old Clivus. And nobody could possibly describe Clive's festering allure more poetically than Sharon Olds, whose poignant ode is almost too beautiful to bear.

Dear Mr. P.C.:

I like to have lots of sex after the gig and talk with my wife afterwards... if there's a telephone nearby. Is it wrong to call collect?


Dear John:

Yes, it's very wrong. Collect calls are a terrible waste of money. And as you know, this isn't going to be a short call.

Because while the gig is still fresh on your mind, you need to tell your wife all about it and get the reassurances you've come to depend on. Catalog the injustices for her—the singer who cut off your solo, the drummer who played so loud you couldn't hear yourself, and the pianist whose dissonant voicings made your lines sound all wrong. Share your insecurities—the fact that you didn't get to solo on every tune, the changes you couldn't remember on "Lush Life," and the strange way the bassist said goodbye to you.

Your wife has always been there for you, John, and hopefully always will be. But calling collect puts unnatural pressure on both of you to keep the conversation short. You may be left with some nagging doubts about your performance, and she may feel that she didn't adequately console you; not exactly the formula for a happy marriage.

I'm surprised you don't know better, unless maybe all that sex has clouded your thinking.

Dear Mr. P.C.:

I've recently become aware of an alarming situation. A good friend of mine, who is otherwise a fine musician, appears to have become trapped inside his saxophone. His solos have become a series of fast technical flourishes followed by a high screeching sound, tune after tune, night after night. Unfortunately, he seems to be surrounded by a fairly large crowd of enablers, which only aggravates the problem.

I've tried to talk him out, but I think he's been in there too long and is now wedged in pretty good. I feel terrible for not having noticed this sooner and done something about it. Is there anything that can be done at this point?

R.U. Happ'nin, Detroit

Dear R.U.:

What a great friend you are! So many saxophonists get stuck inside their horns, and all too few have caring people like you eager to rescue them.

Let's start with the essentials: First, make sure the pads aren't closed. If your friend got stuck honking a low Bb, his air supply is drastically limited, and you need to immediately change the fingering. Also, be sure to lower him food and water at mealtimes. While this compounds the urination/defecation issue, it's nonetheless critical to his survival.

The next step is to lure him out of the horn, and although it takes some planning, it couldn't be simpler. All you need to do is organize a party with your city's best sax players, and have them bring along their favorite mouthpieces. The mouthpieces alone might not be enough to retrieve your friend, but the chance to talk about them with other saxophonists will be irresistible!

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.

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