Mr. P.C.'s Guide to Jazz Etiquette and Bandstand Decorum

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.


Accompanying 101, For Your Consideration, Bandstand Violence

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Accompanying 101Dear Mr. P.C.: I'm a pianist and have a question about reading charts. If I get a lead sheet that includes a measure with a very basic written rhythm in addition to the chord changes, how should I approach it? Should I: 1) Play the chords in the specified rhythm, and play nothing else; 2) Play the rhythmic hits in my left hand and comp and/or play fills with my right as ...


Plight at the End of the Tunnel

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Dear Mr. P.C.: We musicians are getting pretty sick of our playing, having to hear ourselves practice day after day. Seems like we're being discriminated against--shouldn't everyone have to get sick of our playing? This is an important reason for the government to allow venues to reopen sooner. It's the only humanitarian thing to do. --B.J., Mill Creek   Dear B.J.: Careful what you ask for--once you start performing you'll ...


Going Viral

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Dear Mr. P.C.: I've read that vocalists are the greatest threat to spread Covid, since they're projecting their voice and all the germs in their throat around the stage and toward the audience. So I had what I think is a brilliant idea: To quarantine all vocalists and make them use their time in lockdown to learn music theory. It would be a brief inconvenience for them but would lead to a much healthier and egalitarian ensemble vibe ...


The Four-Letter Word, Chatty Clubowner, Knobby Guitarist

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The Four-Letter WordDear Mr. P.C.: How did it happen not everybody wants to be a cat nowadays? Recently I hear a lot of musicians describing their music as “no particular style," coming from thousands and thousands of their acoustic experiences, absolutely unique, not fitting in any particular genre.... And—most importantly—NOT JAZZ, nothing to do with jazz at all. And yet when it comes to the actual sound, it appears to be strong, beautiful, subjective and sincere.... ...


Elusive Spontaneity, Mooed Indigo

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Elusive SpontaneityDear Mr. P.C.: Everybody talks about playing spontaneously like it's the ultimate goal. I guess I'm good with that onstage, but how am I supposed to practice it? —Baffled in Buffalo Dear Baffled: First of all, don't set aside part of your day for practicing; that's the opposite of spontaneous. You need to practice when you're not ready, at a time so inconvenient that it's the last thing on your mind. ...


Cursing, Gambling, Drinking and Smoking

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CursingDear Mr. P.C.: Sometimes when a jazz musician is soloing, I hear him groan or even curse when he hits a bad note. But I never hear any squeals of joy from musicians when they play something they like. Why all the negativity? --Pollyanna in Pittsburgh Dear Polly: That groan or curse you hear is actually an important form of messaging within the band. When a player hits a bad note, his ...


Best of 2020

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Dear Mr. P.C.: So with the ever-present question of “selling out," my question for you is this: Is it better to alienate your audience by playing complicated original music, or to lift their spirits playing standards you can't stand? --Dave the Dichotomist   Dear Dave: If the only thing that lifts their spirits is seeing you miserable, what kind of people are they? Go ahead and play your original music—they ...


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