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Jazz Jam Sessions: A First-Timer's Guide

Bill Anschell By

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And then you realize that this is not musician versus musician. This is musician versus clubowner. Artist versus cynical businessman. Art versus commerce. And it goes deeper still, a playing-out of the grandest archetypal battle. Repressed employee versus miserly employer. Tiny Tim (sans ukulele) versus Scrooge. The proletariat versus the bourgeoisie. There is only one side you can take, Limbaugh be damned.

You look the clubowner in the eye. "You, sir, SUCK," you say dramatically. You quickly make your way to the bandstand, grabbing the microphone that still bears traces of the singer's designer lipstick. "I said, YOU SUCK!" you yell over the house system. A hush falls over the Yuppies. The bartender turns off the blender. Someone turns off the CD player. You point at the clubowner and repeat, more gently, "He sucks."

The Yuppies snicker. There is applause, first a polite smattering, then a substantial ovation. This must be Performance Art, they decide. But we understand it, and it is Good. Confidently, you stride back to the musicians, slap a couple of twenties on the bar, and say, "Drinks for everyone. Except HIM." You point an accusing finger at the clubowner. Then you head for the exit.

You feel good. You've learned a lot about jazz jam sessions tonight. You've also single-handedly defused an explosive situation, and done it with flair. As it turns out, you won't soon be forgotten, either. Looking back over your shoulder, you see Yuppies flocking to the stage to be part of this new cutting-edge art form. A middle-aged businessman has the mike, and is pointing to one of his associates near the back of the room. "Eat s%!*," he bellows artistically, to great laughter and applause. He passes the mike to a slender young woman, who points at a beefy young man near the bar. "Kiss my ASS," she warbles. The room goes ballistic. The line behind the microphone grows, filled out by Yuppies in search of self-expression. Meanwhile, the house band has snuck back into the picture. It is both accompanying and commenting upon the surreal proceedings with freely improvised blips, bleeps, squeaks, and farts.

Your final image, as the door swings shut behind you, is of a critic seated near the stage. He is furiously taking notes, euphoric to be present at the birth of next "New Thing." He will praise the "collective spontaneity" of the Yuppies, noting their "almost Ellingtonian integration of individual voices into a collective fabric." He will draw parallels between your creation and avant-garde work of the 1960s, describing it as "Ornette Coleman meets Laurie Anderson in a revisionist framework for the new millennium." He will note a "new dynamic redefining audience as performer and performer as audience." He will praise the "direct and powerful text elements." He will refer to you as a "drive-by genius," and an "unassuming sculptor of human interactive paradigm."

Your place in music history is assured.

(IH: Need a manager? Try the Musicians Union directory, under "Trombonists...")
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