June 2013

Mr. P.C. By

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Dear Mr. P.C.:

Is it really important to play fast on your solos? Michael T., St. Louis

Dear Michael:

Actually, it's more important to look like you're playing fast. This is the video era, and the people who demand note athleticism are the same ones who'd rather watch music than listen to it.

How can you look ultra-speedy? Break a sweat. Tap your foot spastically. If you're a horn player, turn bright red and gasp for air between phrases. Above all, end your lines clumsily, like a fast player desperately targeting the downbeat as his breakneck phrases hurl him forward.

If you're one of those old-school players who insist on playing "tastefully," you can certainly work that in from time to time; just be sure to do it with a visible touch of irony.

Dear Mr. P.C.:

I went downtown last night, expecting to listen to live music. On the door of the club, in big block letters, was written: FREE JAZZ. As I tried to get in, a man stopped me: "You have to pay!"

Should I have called the police? Paul Wardenclyffe

Dear Paul:

I think I know the problem. You took "Free Jazz" to mean free from the cover charge perspective; an understandable mistake. But of course that's not what they meant at all; they were really speaking from the perspective of the musicians. Which is to say, the musicians weren't getting paid!

It's nice that the management takes pride in its no-pay policy; that's the only reason they would put FREE JAZZ on the door in big block letters. And you have to admit, compared to all the venues nowadays with pay-to-play policies, they look pretty sweet!

Now that we've let the cat out of the bag, I'm expecting an avalanche of emails from musicians hoping to audition there. Could you forward me the contact info? It would be nice to spread the word; let's just hope no one steals the gig by offering to play for less.

Dear Mr. P.C.:

What is the fastest jazz song there is? Jonas Apricant (age 14)

Dear Jonas:

I love brainteasers! It's "Yesterdays," because it already happened! Next?

Dear Mr. P.C.:

This is a question about the
Real Book. We all know that some of the chord changes are wrong, since it was put together by a bunch of students making their best guess.

But here's the thing: now I'll get on the bandstand with a bunch of players who learned "Four" from the
Real Book. So they all are playing the same wrong changes, and what am I supposed to do? Which is worse, playing the wrong changes with them, or sticking to my guns and being the only guy playing the right ones? It's like the people who made the Real Book are redefining the music! Un"Real" Player

Dear URP:

Whoa—with all due respect, you're being seriously reactionary here!

Remember when bebop came along, and most swing musicians made fun of it? Then cool jazz happened, and the beboppers resisted. Then free jazz came along, and almost everyone took offense. Then there was an awfully long time where jazz lacked any sort of new direction...

...Until those fearless Berklee students charged in! You call their changes "wrong," just because they don't match the composers' original intent. But that's never stopped jazz artists before—do you really think Ray Noble wanted his ballad "Cherokee" to become a brutal marathon race? Did George Gershwin want his "I Got Rhythm" chord changes shat upon in jam sessions around the world?

Of course not! Well, your so-called "wrong" changes happen to be the way those brave students heard them. Just like Charlie Parker heard bebop, and Ornette Coleman heard free jazz. Wake up, URP and recognize the Real Book for what it is—the next new direction in jazz! Or risk being on the wrong side of history.

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