Learn How

We need your help in 2018

Support All About Jazz All About Jazz is looking for 1,000 backers to help fund our 2018 projects that directly support jazz. You can make this happen by purchasing ad space or by making a donation to our fund drive. In addition to completing every project (listed here), we'll also hide all Google ads and present exclusive content for a full year!

6

February 2014

February 2014
Mr. P.C. By

Sign in to view read count
Dear Mr. P.C.:

What's up with singers who count off tunes so quietly that not all the guys in the band can even hear it? Then half the band starts up and the other guys kind of flail their way in. It amazes me because it would be so easy to fix, but they act like the numbers are some dirty little secret or something.

— Singers Have Hard Heads


Dear SHHH:

Okay, let's say you're a vocalist—do you know what the hardest part of your job is? The fact that everyone in the audience is a singer too! Maybe they only sing in the shower or in their car, but in their hearts, they're singers all right! So you have to constantly prove that you deserve to be on stage more than they do.

That's why you need some mystery and intrigue. And counting off a tune out loud is the exact opposite of that. Think about it: "One, two, three, four"—it's just so obvious! Far better, then, to let the audience imagine that you're invoking a sacred rite by which—voila!—the band magically starts, perhaps raggedy, but quite mysteriously.

Also, SHHH, don't forget that a lot of singers have trouble remembering lyrics. "One, two, three, four" is a set of numbers, but it's also a set of words. And screwing them up out loud would be totally embarrassing!

Dear Mr. P.C.:

If I play a great solo to an empty jazz club, did it really happen?

— Gregg B.C.
   

Dear Gregg:

If a tree falls on Phil Woods and there's no one around to hear it, does it make a sound? Does he?

Dear Mr. P.C.:

I know some great improvisers who can't read a note of music. That's fine, but why do they brag about it? Wouldn't they be even better if they learned how to read? It's never too late, is it?

— Reader
   

Dear Reader:

But what if they learned to read, and they didn't get any better? Right now they're great players in spite of the fact that they can't read. Take away their disadvantage and—voila!—they're instantly less amazing.

We all need to do what we do in spite of something. That's called establishing a narrative; it adds drama, even heroism to our short time on this planet. Look at me—I'm beset by a fearsome array of allergies that would cripple a lesser man: wheat, nuts, lactose, perfume, hairspray, pets, air fresheners; even certain types of unenlightened humans. And, in spite of these allergies, I'm able to post this column on time, month after month!

Don't get me wrong—I'm not trying to equate myself with players who can't read music; I would never be so presumptuous. Still, there are moments when I could "pass": When I'm on the bandstand with guys who wear deodorant, my eyes tear up, and the music dissolves into incomprehensible, watery hieroglyphics. At those moments, I feel a surge of raw musicianship, uncompromised by schooling or privilege.

Of course I could go all in—full-time reading impairment— by wearing deodorant myself. Don't think I'm not tempted! But then, blinded, how would I write this column? Can I really, in good conscience, abandon my devoted following? Never! Better I should be enveloped by my own funk, 24/7.

Typing this right now, emanating my natural odor—a rank bouquet of garlic, soy milk, kimchee, mildew and, inexplicably, tainted meat—I think of the people around me, hoping they find the scent at least bearable. If not, I take consolation in the fact that when we suffer for our art, we seldom suffer alone.
Have a question for Mr. P.C.? Ask him.

Tags

comments powered by Disqus

More Articles

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 Solving the Audience Equation, The Fix is On, and It's a Setup! Mr. P.C.'s Guide to Jazz Etiquette... Solving the Audience Equation, The Fix is On, and It's...
by Mr. P.C.
Published: March 24, 2017
Read Best of Mr. P.C. 2016 Mr. P.C.'s Guide to Jazz Etiquette... Best of Mr. P.C. 2016
by Mr. P.C.
Published: December 10, 2016
Read Easy Swing, Fours and More, Medicinal Jazz Mr. P.C.'s Guide to Jazz Etiquette... Easy Swing, Fours and More, Medicinal Jazz
by Mr. P.C.
Published: December 1, 2016
Read "Solving the Audience Equation, The Fix is On, and It's a Setup!" Mr. P.C.'s Guide to Jazz Etiquette... Solving the Audience Equation, The Fix is On, and It's...
by Mr. P.C.
Published: March 24, 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 "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 "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 "Ronnie Laws: Finding His New Groove" Tell Me More Ronnie Laws: Finding His New Groove
by Belinda Ware
Published: September 14, 2017
Read "I Scare Myself by Dan Hicks" Book Reviews I Scare Myself by Dan Hicks
by Chris Mosey
Published: May 6, 2017
Read "Stick Men at Havana" Live Reviews Stick Men at Havana
by Geno Thackara
Published: August 25, 2017
Read "John Abercrombie Remembered" Profiles John Abercrombie Remembered
by Dave Allen
Published: November 4, 2017
Read "Emanem Tidies Up" Multiple Reviews Emanem Tidies Up
by John Eyles
Published: December 19, 2016

Support All About Jazz's Future

We need your help and we have a deal. Contribute $20 and we'll hide the six Google ads that appear on every page for a full year!