August 2014

August 2014
Mr. P.C. By

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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 moment," but your guitarist is taking it to the next level: playing in a future moment. And where's your musical empathy? When he anticipates a chord change—whether from the next measure or the next song—why aren't you anticipating it with him?

Think of all the musicians who rush, desperate to reach the song's end as fast as they can. Well, he's already there, nonchalantly having a smoke, amused by all the fuss, gearing up for his next time-traveling feat. "You'll have to anticipate me," he says, because he knows that no amount of rushing will catch up to the future, just as dragging can't summon the past.

You're lucky to be teamed with a brilliant forward-thinking innovator, WTBC; please don't let yourself be left behind.

Dear Mr. P.C.:

How do you get to be a professional jazz musician? Do you sign like when football players go pro?

—B.P. Jr., age 12

Dear B.P.:

You're asking what it takes to be a "professional" in a field where highly skilled individuals desperately compete for low-paying work, where the people in charge of hiring rarely pick the most qualified applicants, and where the public being served often has no interest whatsoever in the service provided?

Business cards!

When you're ready to go pro, remove all doubt by printing up cards that say "B.P. Jr., Professional Jazz Musician." Leave a blank space for your phone number and address, because they'll probably change as you move from one friend's couch to the next. Come to think of it, you might also want to leave "Jazz Musician" off the card, because that will probably change before long, too.

I'm guessing football's more or less the same thing, but with helmets.

Dear Mr. P.C.:

You know how some singers when they're scatting wiggle their fingers, like they're playing a horn? And some bassists, guitarists and piano players sort of sing while they're playing? I'm wondering: Why can't they just be happy with who they are?


Dear Tim:

What's interesting to me is the missing piece of this puzzle, untold but gently implied. Think about it: Which musicians, by your definition, are happy with who they are? Answer: Horn players! Why? Because they're already using their mouths and their fingers, leaving them no way to pretend to be anything other than themselves.

What a perfect metaphor for the human condition! Horn players, ever the philosophers, teach us that only by being fully engaged can we escape the desperate longing for something more.

Thanks, horn players!
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