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Food, Guts, Pop

Food, Guts, Pop
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Food

Dear Mr. P.C.:

I just played a wedding gig where I briefly felt lucky to be given a place setting and served the same food the guests ate. My question is: If I'm not satisfied with the dish, is it inappropriate for me to send my plate back to the kitchen and ask for something better?

—Running On Empty


Dear ROE:

You were indeed lucky to be served the same food the guests ate. If they only ate a little, you could have eaten around those parts and still had a pretty full meal. If they ate most of it and you were only given a few scraps—bones, excess gravy, wilted garnishes, and/or anything they may have spit out—you certainly could have sent it back, but you'd risk being seen as ungrateful.

Guts

Dear Mr. P.C.:

I'm playing a solo piano gig. A woman comes up to me and starts singing along without asking first. She sounds terrible! What can I do that won't get me fired?

—Happily Single


Dear HS:

Do you realize how brave she is to 1) perform uninvited, 2) with someone she doesn't know, 3) terribly?

There's no substitute for that sort of fearless self-promotion—in today's crowded jazz scene it's the only way to cut through the clutter. But you'd never do anything like that, would you? Far better to cling to that demeaning solo gig of yours.

You could learn a lot from her self-confidence and musical bravery. In fact if you're smart you'll try to get some of it to rub off on you. The best way: start rehearsing with her regularly—assuming her fee is reasonable.

Pop

Dear Mr. P.C.:

I remember back in the day when it was totally uncool for a jazz musician to play pop songs. But then suddenly everyone started playing jazz versions of tunes by the Beatles, Joni Mitchell, Radiohead and others. Why did it change?

—Crusty


Dear Crusty:

Playing pop songs is only uncool if the audience actually recognizes them; then the artist could be accused of pandering. But today's jazz musicians are so highly trained, they can bury pop songs under layers of harmonic and rhythmic complexity until they're completely unrecognizable.

At that point the songs become just like actual jazz tunes, so no one can accuse the artist of pandering or any other effort to connect with the listeners.

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