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It's About Time

It's About Time

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Dear Mr. P.C.:

When a member of your band has a history of showing up late for your gigs, is it morally wrong to give them a "start time" an hour early to be safe? FWIW, this is a bassist with a tendency to drag, so if I alienate him it's not the end of the world.

—Anonymous, Jacksonville

Dear Anonymous:

Time is fluid and irrepressible. Time won't start and stop at your urging any more than your attempts to misuse it will change your bassist's behavior. And when you accuse him of having bad time—what arrogance! As if your time is somehow superior to another's when in reality it will be your ultimate downfall. The only thing you can know with certainty about your time is that when it comes, you'll be dead.

Time doesn't do anything, good or bad; time doesn't care. Time just sits there, impassive, while mortals do their worst to it, showing up early or late for this gig or that, rushing or dragging in some part of a tune that's part of a set that's part of a concert crawling along for an audience restlessly waiting for the time to go home. These earthly concerns—so important to you and others like you—are no more than meaningless blips in time's infinite existence.

Dear Mr. P.C.:

I've been around enough jazz musicians to be intimately familiar with the self-loathing that kicks in after gigs. And it's not just a few musicians or gigs, it seems to be all of them! Is there a single jazz musician who actually likes their own playing?

—Fear of Loathing in Las Vegas

Dear Fear:

Actually, there is. It happened just a few months ago, outside Phoenix, when a local musician came home from a gig and gleefully told his wife "I killed it tonight!" Word of his buoyant spirit and inspirational self-confidence spread quickly through the jazz community until the other musicians figured out he really isn't very good, though still probably better than they are.

Dear Mr. P.C.:

I have a jazz quartet with my favorite players on each instrument. I treat them well and our gigs have always been a lot of fun. They used to be very loyal, but lately they've started canceling at the last minute (separately). The gigs they bail on mine for don't even seem to be as good as mine. Less money, venues that aren't as nice, less chance to stretch in the music.

I can't figure out why they're doing it. I don't want to fire them, but if they keep me scrambling to find last-minute subs I'm going to have to. What should I do?

—Bandleader Scorned

Dear BS:

I think the key lies in your description of your gigs as "a lot of fun." There's a time and place for fun, I suppose, but jazz isn't it. Jazz is a serious music; that's why jazz musicians practice so hard, study so diligently, and learn to be so harshly critical of their own playing and everyone else's.

Your sidemen may even be having fun along with you, but at some point they'll inevitably ask themselves "Is this still jazz?" And you know as well as I do that the answer is no.

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