Inspired by the cutting edge advice of Abigail Van Buren, the storied bass playing of Paul Chambers, and the need for a Politically Correct doctrine for navigating the minefields of jazz etiquette, I humbly offer my services.
Dear Mr. P.C.: Why is it that whenever I go to a jam session, the best players are the meanest? Does that mean that I have to become a jerk if I want to get good? --Still A Nice Guy Dear SANG: Sounds like you're buying into some very common but misguided notions of best." Just what is it that you admire about these jerks"? That they play comfortably and melodically at any tempo? Negotiate chord changes effortlessly? Phrase naturally at all dynamic levels? What you don't realize is that ...read more
Dear Mr. P.C.: I got offered a low paying gig through an agent who's been screwing musicians royally for years. What should I do? --T.W., Atlanta Dear T.W.: Think about it: His 15% cut of a low-paying gig is just a fraction of the 15% other agents make booking high-end ones. Yet he books it anyway, taking a passionate stand for the underclass. He's so committed to the little guy that he'll even offer a band for less than the going rate, knowing that cheaper musicians need the work far ...read more
Dear Mr. P.C.: I was playing piano in a building lobby where I perform regularly. A woman walked past the piano and discreetly left something at the far end (it's a grand piano). When I finished the song, I walked around the piano to see what she'd left. Turned out it was her trash! I'm a little old and out of touch so I'm wondering: Is that okay nowadays? --Don't Understand Selfish Treatment By Inconsiderate Nutjob Dear DUSTBIN: When you call it trash," I wonder if you're being too ...read more
Dear Mr. P.C. I play five nights a week in a restaurant, and there's a sign right at the entrance that says Restrooms are for Customer Use Only." My problem is that it's a four-hour gig, and sometimes I have to go really bad by the end. Would it be out of line for me to ask the management if I could use the restroom once a night? --John Dear John: The problem is all the uncertainties it would create. For example: If you don't use the restroom one night, ...read more
Dear Mr. P.C.: I work with a guitarist who I mistakenly thought was playing wrong notes when he took a solo. When I asked him about it, he explained to me that he was anticipating the chord change. My question is, do you have to anticipate a chord change in the same song? Or is it cooler to anticipate a chord in a song that you might be thinking of playing in the next set? --Wanting To Be Cool Dear WTBC: Most jazz artists make it their goal to play in the ...read more
Dear Mr. P.C.: I hate my playing almost all the time. What's worse is I don't seem to hate it any less even though I'm getting better. At least I think I'm getting better, when I'm not busy hating my playing. Is there something wrong with me? --Having Absolutely Terrible Esteem Dear HATE: Instead of getting lost in self-loathing, try to focus on the times when you don't hate your playing. What makes those moments different? Do you really sound better, or is it just a matter of perspective? If it's just ...read more
Dear Mr. P.C.: I knew a singer once who couldn't read a note of music. But when she got lost she'd go over to the pianist and start pointing at his music as if he was lost and she was helping him. She even did it on TV once so everyone watching thought it was his fault. My question is for him, I'm wondering what he was supposed to do. --Singer's Tyranny Oppresses Pianist Dear STOP: Simple: He should have grabbed a pencil, circled the notes she was pointing to, and handed ...read more