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

Cursing, Gambling, Drinking and Smoking

Cursing, Gambling, Drinking and Smoking

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Dear 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 outburst recognizes, acknowledges and takes ownership of the mistake.

Players who screw up but don't declare it are no different than those who fart silently and either look off in the distance or—worse yet—glance accusingly at someone else.


Dear Mr. P.C.:

Is there anything ethically wrong with gambling on which member of your wedding band will get fired next? If that's okay, is it also okay to make sure the person you bet on gets fired?

—Longshot Larry

Dear Larry:

There's nothing wrong with the gambling aspect, and of course you would want to do everything possible to win. But there's only one sure path to victory: bet on yourself! Then stack the odds by playing flat sevens on all the major seventh chords, major sevenths on the dominant chords, and major thirds on the minor chords. There may be no "wrong" notes in jazz, but there are special notes that make everyone around you feel slightly ill. And, with any luck, get you fired.

Drinking and Smoking

Dear Mr. P.C.:

I saw a jazz trio playing in a grocery supermarket. Is this what jazz has come to? They were playing some really bad bossas while people fondled and squeezed the tomatoes. Shouldn't they have been playing "Scrapple From The Apple"?


Dear Disgusted:

The real issue here is that the management could have placed the band anywhere in the store, and specifically chose the produce section. Why give shoppers such easy access to the tomatoes? Fondling and squeezing them, preparing for maximum impact and dispersion—I just hope the band wore red that day.

Why wasn't the trio assigned to the deli section, where the food is safely out of reach? Or the bakery, where hurled cookies and slices of bread would fall harmlessly at their feet. But then again, the pies! The cream pies!

The only viable solution would be to set the band up behind protective glass, locked in with the booze and cigarettes. Extra perk: They're all set for their breaks.

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