July 2010

July 2010

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Dear Mr. P.C.:

Why do drummers play so loud? Can't we have them tested for steroids? John, Philadelphia

Dear John:

Drummers have to play loud to hear themselves over the din of their own cymbals, which can be deafening. It's a vicious cycle and—yes—I've seen some drummers resort to steroids, but only out of desperation.

It gets worse: The louder drummers play, the faster they lose their hearing, making them play even louder, which in turn deafens them faster still. That's why they yell all the time and have dysfunctional families: their wives cover their ears and shriek, their children hide under the furniture, and their pets lose control of their bowels.

I'm sure you mean well, John, but when you talk about a drummer's volume problems, you're just blaming the victim. Fortunately, he can't hear you.

Dear Mr. P.C.:

I need your help. Jazz has been the closest thing to church I've ever known, but lately I find that given the choice between jazz and quiet, I opt for the latter. Even the comfort tunes that have enjoyed heavy rotation for years feel thin and meaningless anymore.

Don't get me wrong—I still listen—but I'm finding that the song of a Swainson's Thrush feeds my spirit like Bird never could. Needless to say, after all that jazz has given me, the guilt and confusion are overwhelming. Could this just be a passing phase? It Don't Mean a Thing Anymore

Dear It Don't Mean a Thing:

With your church analogy, you begin to answer your own question. Because among true believers, Jazz is no less than a religion. That your faith might lapse is not to be feared; Jazz wills it so, just as Jazz wills your eventually return.

Already, as you begin to lose your connection with Jazz, you find yourself sinking into despair. With your faith shattered, life itself becomes a question without answer; a D.S. without a fine. Should we be surprised that your very name speaks of the absence of meaning?

So, adrift in uncertainty, you find yourself drawn to the Swainson's Thrush. Can't you see that this is part of Jazz's plan? It is no less than your first step toward redemption, because Jazz is in the Swainson's Thrush. In fact, there is no greater proof of Jazz's existence than the Swainson's Thrush, its fabled song full of Syncopation, Blues Inflections and Post-Bop Harmonic Sensibilities.

When you come back to the Jazz fold, you may do so without shame, your belief only strengthened by the anguish you've felt in its absence. In fact, your time spent wallowing in the Jazzless void will enable you to better connect with those lost souls who don't yet know Jazz. You will be reborn as a Jazz Messenger, spreading the word of Jazz—and, with it, salvation—throughout the land.

Dear Mr. P.C.:

Every gig with a horn player starts with a dry floor and ends with a puddle of effluvia. Am I the only one disgusted by it? Good players, bad players all dump their saliva in ways that their mother never would allow in their houses. Many cities have anti-spitting laws but cabaret licenses grow silent on this health hazard. Think about it: TB, influenza, diseases I can not pronounce as well as the occasional slip and fall all await in that shiny puddle in front of the horn player's mike. So how do I keep the music and lose the mucus? Atlanta Guitar Player

Dear Guitar Player:

Imagine, if you will, that you had to live the life of the poor effluvium.

You're conceived, lovelessly, in the dank, murky wash of a trumpeter's mouth, and quickly buzzed through to your inhospitable womb—a dark, claustrophobic metallic chamber. Penned in, suffocated, you yearn for the release that will be your birth. Finally the day comes: The spit valve opens, the light—your first glimpse ever!—shines in, and you joyously leap forth. Alas, there's no midwife to catch you, and you land on the sticky, smelly stage with an ignoble splat.

Life, from there, is a series of continuing indignities. A wet mop forces you into unseemly partnerships, fusing you with the rotting food, fermented drinks, and assorted bodily fluids that coat the stage. Together, you're dumped into a filthy club toilet, then flushed—along with the evening's feces, urine, and vomit—into the sewage system. This is where you'll spend the better part of your life, floating in society's festering discharge, batted about by the few hearty, tightly constructed stools able to resist dissipation.

At some point, you'll be forced through the filtration process, a harrowing form of chemotherapy that leaves you sterile and enfeebled. Stripped of your very essence, you become tap water, held captive in the city reservoir. Your subsequent life is a featureless blur until one day you find yourself back at the jazz club, close to death, like a salmon that has swum upstream to spawn. Your dying act will be to wash down a trumpet player's half-price burger, hastily swallowed before he starts his first set. Cast into the moist darkness beneath his tongue, mingled with ketchup, mustard, and bits of beef and bun, your remnants will be absorbed into the next generation of effluvia, each fated to a life no better than your own.

In answer to your original question, Guitar Player, I can only hope there are some audience members, not quite so insensitive as you, who might feel more pity than disgust.

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