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.


French Scat, Nothing Personal, Casual Claustrophobia

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French ScatDear Mr. P.C.: I'm a jazz vocalist about to sing abroad for the first time. When we play in France, do I have to scat in French? --Perplexed About Rendering International Scat Dear PARIS: How could they possibly understand you if you scat in English? Find recordings of good French scat solos and transcribe them--that's the best way to internalize the language. If that doesn't work for you, you ...


Hitting Things

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Dear Mr. P.C.: A percussionist came to one of my gigs. Without asking the leader for permission, he handed out shakers and other percussion instruments to many of the people in the “audience." “Audience" in quotes because it was actually a fancy hotel where we were just supposed to provide ambiance while rich old people enjoyed their food and drinks. Instead, it turned into a bunch of drunks with no sense of time just banging away. We fought ...


The Sound of a Puckered Butt, Nice Guys Finish Last, and The Masked Pianist

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The Sound of a Puckered ButtDear Mr. P.C.: We closed our set last night with “Upper Manhattan Medical Group."  As I was packing up, the guy at the front table said he was in fact a doc in an Upper Manhattan Medical Group and that my sax playing “resounded like a forceful Valsalva maneuver." Not sure what he meant, I googled with the following result, direct from the National Institutes of Health website: “Valsalva maneuver is the ...


It's About Time

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Dear Mr. P.C.: When a member of your band has a history of showing up late for your gigs, is it morally wrong to give them a “start time" an hour early to be safe? FWIW, this is a bassist with a tendency to drag, so if I alienate him it's not the end of the world. —Anonymous, Jacksonville Dear Anonymous: Time is fluid and irrepressible. Time won't start and stop at ...


Vote P.C.!

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Dear Mr. P.C.: Will being in a swing state improve my swing playing? --J.P., Atlanta Dear J.P.: On the surface, at least, this is pretty obvious. Right now I'm in a writing state, so I'm writing. Tonight I'll be in a reading state, so I'll read. If I were in a swing state, would I play swing? You bet! When else would I swing better? And for the same reason, if I ...


CD Phobia, Italian Sunrise and The Dating Game

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CD PhobiaDear Mr. P.C.: Whenever I listen to an old recording of myself and I sound good, it depresses me. Because in all the years I've spent practicing since I recorded it, have I even gotten better? As for my last few CDs, I haven't even listened, because I'd probably be devastated. And I can't listen to the radio, because what if one of my tracks starts playing? What if I hated it without even realizing ...


Strange Guitarists, Entitled Musicians and Fictional Managers

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Strange GuitaristsDear Mr. P.C.: Is it possible to maintain inner peace while playing “Misty" or “Autumn Leaves"? Why are guitarists strange? --Jack Dear Jack: That's quite a puzzle you've created there! I think you're suggesting that guitarists are strange either because they can maintain inner peace playing those songs, or because they can't. I can't tell which, and it doesn't matter. Here's the thing: Guitar players have so ...


The Lick, The Uniform, and All That Jazz

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The LickDear Mr. P.C.: I'm afraid that someday as I'm getting ready to solo on a song, I may forget my lick. If that happens, what am I supposed to do? Out Of Lick Dear OOL: At that point it's a little late to try to come up with a new lick, isn't it? So, unfortunately, you'll to have to try to improvise. It won't be fun or easy, but maybe in ...


A Marvelous Night, Self-ish

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A Marvelous Night Dear Mr. P.C.: I went to a jazz club to hear a jazz band. When I shouted out a request between songs, the musicians just looked at one another, shook their heads, then ignored me. The song was “Moondance," which I happen to know is jazzy. I even asked the people at the tables around me, and they agreed it's jazzy. So what kind of so-called “jazz" band in a so-called “jazz" club can't even ...


Food, Guts, Pop

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FoodDear Mr. P.C.: I just played a wedding gig where I briefly felt lucky to be given a place setting and served the same food the guests ate. My question is: If I'm not satisfied with the dish, is it inappropriate for me to send my plate back to the kitchen and ask for something better? —Running On Empty Dear ROE: You were indeed lucky to be served the same food the ...

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