August 2011

August 2011
Mr. P.C. By

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Dear Mr. P.C.:

I've been a professional jazz pianist for more than 20 years and have enjoyed many healthy, long-term relationships with musicians playing other instruments. Recently I played my first gig with another pianist, and I really enjoyed it and can't stop thinking about it. Does this make me gay? Bi-Instrumentally Curious

Dear BIC:

Of course not! Think about it: Saxophonists play with one another all the time. Yet they multiply like rabbits—there are more young saxophonists flooding the market every day. Repellents, traps, poison, inbreeding and even bad rhythm sections can't hold them back.

If saxophonists were all gay, they'd quickly die out as a species. Of course that would have its advantages, but we'd sure miss those 30-chorus solos at jam sessions, wouldn't we?

Dear Mr. P.C.:

If a musician is made so upset by a psychotic vocalist that he lashes out and kills one of the other band members, is it murder, or is it justifiable homicide? PG13, Seattle

Dear PG:

Not long ago I went camping with a couple of friends, long-time acquaintances who I thought shared my belief system. We shopped for supplies at our local organic store, and when we got to the coffee section, trouble ensued. I insisted on buying Fair Trade coffee, of course, and Friend One was right there with me. But Friend Two shocked us by insisting on a Peruvian blend from a company known to be exploitative of indigenous farmers and laborers. His reason: It "tastes" better! He wouldn't back down, and our only workaround was to buy both. I can't start to describe how humiliating it was to go through the check-out line, the cashier distastefully holding the package at arms length, the customers in our line keeping extra distance as if we should be quarantined.

I was furious. But do you think I took it out on Friend One, my Fair Trade comrade? No way!!! Unlike your misguided band mate, I attacked the perpetrator himself. Not directly, since we were about to camp together. Plus, aggressive behavior doesn't come naturally to me. But I told him in no uncertain terms that I wouldn't touch any of his fascist brew, at least not unless I ran out of mine, which would take several days. But he knew, or surely should have figured out, that I was displeased.

The point is, I directed my rage at the guilty party, not the innocent bystander. And while I like to think I was forceful about it, I certainly didn't murder anyone. Not literally, anyway. But metaphorically, I pretty much took him down. I felt awful about it until I drank some of his tainted brew the first morning as a gesture of friendship. You know what it tasted like? The sweat of oppressed peasants; a bracing, earthy, but ultimately unpalatable swill.

Dear Mr. P.C.:

What are your thoughts on open musical relationships? For example, if there are two different saxophonists I love to play with, is it okay to partner with both of them? Jose Gonzales

Dear Jose:

Of course it is! Thankfully, in today's evolved musical society, hang-ups about musical monogamy have melted away. Jazz in particular, with the value it places on swinging, is quite accepting of polygamy.

But you need to approach the subject with honesty and sensitivity, guided by your love for both players. Avoid being secretive, keeping each of them thinking they're your one and only. Take special care not to show favoritism between them; instead let both know their unique place in your heart. For example, perhaps you value one for his romantic ballad playing, the other for her seductive blues lines.

Above all, spend as much time as possible cultivating your separate relationships before rushing into any live trio action. When the time is right, gently let them know that, while you've enjoyed partnering with them one on one, it's time for all three of you to get into the act together. Once they're on board, you'll still need to conduct a good deal of preliminary discussion, including the thorny question of each player's specific role in the performance. When show time comes, you should plan to take the lead, guiding the intertwining of your three parts, and—at the conclusion of the act—showering your partners with praise.

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

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