March 2013

Mr. P.C. By

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Dear Mr. P.C.:

Sometimes when I quote tunes, I get stuck on them, and forget what I was playing to start with. Jeff

Dear Jeff:

Getting "stuck" on a quote means you believe, at some important unconscious level, that the song you're "quoting" is better than the one you've been playing. If your music is to be a true expression of the song within you, it would be dishonest to return to the lesser tune. You need only follow your heart and stay the course.

There's just one possible complication: What if you accidentally switch back to the first tune, despite your best intentions? Then you will indeed have "quoted," sending your musical life down a terrible trajectory. Ultimately, your soul will land in quoter's hell, a fiery shopping mall where the muzak continually recycles fragments of "It Might As Well Be Spring," "The Lick," "Laura" and "Cry Me a River."

Dear Mr. P.C.:

I was playing with a singer, and she said she wanted to do a tune with just bass, drum and voice. I tried to set it up with a walking line, and she waved me off, looking really disgusted. What did I do wrong? Singers Never Understand Bassists

Dear SNUB:

Actually, I'll bet what she said was "bass drum and voice." No comma, no strings attached; just the kick.

But you really shouldn't need me to tell you that, SNUB. After all, the bass drum is by far the most important instrument in jazz—just ask any soundman!

Dear Mr. P.C.:

Why is it that the more chops drummers have, the more irrelevant nonsense they play? It's like "The Art of the Non Sequitur." I have a feeling that my drummer is living in a parallel reality where he's playing the same tune as us in the same tempo, but with Herbie Hancock on piano, or Cedar Walton. It's not that it isn't hip, it's just not what we're playing in this universe. I feel like Walter on "Fringe." Or is it me? Did I really come from the other side?

Rick in Singapore

Dear Rick:

Drummers have to play "irrelevant nonsense" so they can't be replaced by drum machines. The more technology advances, the more irrelevant nonsense they have to play. In other words, they're highlighting the "human" element, reeking—in a good way—of imperfection and mortality, multiplied by desperation. Before long, as sampling technology improves and other instruments become dispensable, you'll find entire bands playing irrelevant nonsense, which may prove to be our generation's most enduring contribution to the ongoing evolution of jazz.

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