All About Jazz

Home » Articles » Mr. P.C.'s Guide to Jazz Etiquette...

17

Best of Mr. P.C. 2014

Best of Mr. P.C. 2014
Mr. P.C. By

Sign in to view read count
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 those are all tricks to cover up the troubled souls that lie beneath! As if there's no uncertainty or conflict within—how utterly dishonest and cowardly!

The players who are truly "the best" are the ones who aren't afraid to show their vulnerabilities—weaknesses like uneven time, clumsy phrasing, bad note choices, or the simple inability to master their instruments. They're telling you real stories, of real lives that reflect the fragility of our troubled planet.

Remember the children's tale about the ugly duckling that becomes a swan, or the creepy caterpillar that grows into a beautiful butterfly? That's what these raw musical truth-tellers are like, but without the ridiculous Hollywood endings.

Dear Mr. P.C.:

I recently did a club date for a saxophonist, and as we were finishing, I overheard the following conversation between the client and him:

Client: "You did a great job, and I'd like to give you a tip. There are five of you, right? Here are five hundreds, one for each of you."

Saxophonist: "Thanks!"

Mr. P.C., you probably know where this is going. When I got my check, it was only $50 more than what I was booked for. When I started asking around the band, it turned out that we'd all been given different tips, from $50 to $90. On top of that, we'd been hired for different amounts, too!

What should I say to him?

—One Hundred Should Happen In Tips


Dear OH SHIT:

It's pretty obvious why he'd hire each of you for different amounts: he set the pay based on how well he expected you to play. When the tip money came in, it gave him the chance to correct his initial estimates and pay you based on your actual performance.

I don't know which is more disappointing: Your indignant reaction to his savvy, results-based managerial style; or the fact that you just really didn't play very well.

Dear Mr. P.C.:

How should I set my pay scale when a pianist calls me for a duo gig and asks how much I need? I hate that question!

—Jim of MD


Dear Jim:

Of course the enlightened path is to act selflessly—to put others' needs before your own. So the answer should be obvious enough: Ask the pianist how much he needs, and tell him he can just pay you the rest.

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 perspective, maybe you don't have better moments at all. Probably not.

With that in mind, getting back to your question: No, there's nothing wrong with you; just a lot of things wrong with your playing.

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.:

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?

Tags

comments powered by Disqus

Related Articles

Read On the Download; Presto, the Audience Disappears!; Showboaters Get the Clap Mr. P.C.'s Guide to Jazz Etiquette...
On the Download; Presto, the Audience Disappears!;...
by Mr. P.C.
Published: April 13, 2018
Read Rushing Collusion, Bits and P.C.s, Ave Maracas Mr. P.C.'s Guide to Jazz Etiquette...
Rushing Collusion, Bits and P.C.s, Ave Maracas
by Mr. P.C.
Published: February 8, 2018
Read Best of Mr. P.C. 2017 Mr. P.C.'s Guide to Jazz Etiquette...
Best of Mr. P.C. 2017
by Mr. P.C.
Published: January 18, 2018
Read Practice Makes Imperfect, The Pursuit of Nothingness, Challenging the Originalists Mr. P.C.'s Guide to Jazz Etiquette...
Practice Makes Imperfect, The Pursuit of Nothingness,...
by Mr. P.C.
Published: October 26, 2017
Read Bits and PCs, The Cosmic Loop, Fake Gigs Mr. P.C.'s Guide to Jazz Etiquette...
Bits and PCs, The Cosmic Loop, Fake Gigs
by Mr. P.C.
Published: August 9, 2017
Read Booze in the Night, CD or Not CD?, and Malodorous Microphone Mr. P.C.'s Guide to Jazz Etiquette...
Booze in the Night, CD or Not CD?, and Malodorous Microphone
by Mr. P.C.
Published: May 3, 2017
Read "Practice Makes Imperfect, The Pursuit of Nothingness, Challenging the Originalists" Mr. P.C.'s Guide to Jazz Etiquette... Practice Makes Imperfect, The Pursuit of Nothingness,...
by Mr. P.C.
Published: October 26, 2017
Read "On the Download; Presto, the Audience Disappears!; Showboaters Get the Clap" Mr. P.C.'s Guide to Jazz Etiquette... On the Download; Presto, the Audience Disappears!;...
by Mr. P.C.
Published: April 13, 2018
Read "Best of Mr. P.C. 2017" Mr. P.C.'s Guide to Jazz Etiquette... Best of Mr. P.C. 2017
by Mr. P.C.
Published: January 18, 2018
Read "Rushing Collusion, Bits and P.C.s, Ave Maracas" Mr. P.C.'s Guide to Jazz Etiquette... Rushing Collusion, Bits and P.C.s, Ave Maracas
by Mr. P.C.
Published: February 8, 2018
Read "Bits and PCs, The Cosmic Loop, Fake Gigs" Mr. P.C.'s Guide to Jazz Etiquette... Bits and PCs, The Cosmic Loop, Fake Gigs
by Mr. P.C.
Published: August 9, 2017
Read "Sidney Hauser:  Justice and Jubilation" Interviews Sidney Hauser: Justice and Jubilation
by Paul Rauch
Published: July 17, 2018
Read "Live From New York: Alvin Curran, Ben Perowsky, David Tronzo, John Medeski, Tim Berne, David Torn & Hank Roberts" Live From New York Live From New York: Alvin Curran, Ben Perowsky, David...
by Martin Longley
Published: April 27, 2018
Read "Take Five with Hayley Lam" Take Five With... Take Five with Hayley Lam
by Hayley Lam
Published: August 3, 2017
Read "Leni Stern: Finally The Fame Has Come" SoCal Jazz Leni Stern: Finally The Fame Has Come
by Jim Worsley
Published: February 9, 2018
Read "John Sharpe's Best Releases Of 2017" Best of / Year End John Sharpe's Best Releases Of 2017
by John Sharpe
Published: December 28, 2017
Read "Live From New York: Sō Percussion, Jack Quartet, Mette Rasmussen, Tashi Dorji & Godspeed You! Black Emperor" Live From New York Live From New York: Sō Percussion, Jack Quartet, Mette...
by Martin Longley
Published: March 25, 2018