May 2011

Mr. P.C. By

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Dear Mr. P.C.:

Getting lost: Is it the end of the world? Tom, Austin

Dear Tom:

Hardly. Think about it: The "form" and "changes" are really just artificial barriers between the song you're playing and the song within you. While you're painstakingly navigating the harmonic maze, music is welling up inside you, ideas developing faster than they're able to escape. It's quite unhealthy, really, much liked trapped gas rumbling in the taut belly of a fashion model who'd rather endure brutal stomach cramps than emit an unseemly belch or fart on the runway.

The analogy goes further: Impeded by senseless stiletto heels, our model bravely travels the runway, carefully keeping her balance at the expense of her innate speed and grace. Hobbled by oppressive chord progressions, you courageously negotiate a tune, carefully maintaining its form at the expense of your innate joy and creativity. Hey, model: Kick off those shoes that bind, and know the thrill of foot travel unfettered! Hey, Tom: Shed those changes that bind, and know the sound of sheer freedom!

Here's an easy way to do it: Next time you're "lost," just keep on playing! You'd be surprised how liberating it can be, and if you do it with enough conviction, your insecure band mates—always ready to assume they're in the wrong—will be quick to join you. Together you can explore uncharted territory, and in the throes of being lost, you might just find yourselves.

As a non-denominational pantheist, I'm no fan of organized religion. Still, I can't help but see a parallel in the Christian hymn, "Amazing Grace." Those poignant lyrics—"Was lost but now I'm found"—were probably written about the very voyage of self-discovery that scares you so.

Dear Mr. P.C.:

I'm the leader on a wedding reception gig, and the agent who booked me has specifically said the band isn't allowed to eat under any circumstances. I share this sad news with each guy when I call him for the gig. At the beginning of our first break, the bride comes over and says, "I hope you'll help yourselves." The guys all look at me with starvation in their eyes. What do I do? Hungry As Hell

Dear HAH:

Step away from yourself for a minute, and think about your agent: Why wouldn't he want you to eat? Answer: Because he doesn't get to eat, of course! Can you blame him? He slaves away at his desk all day trying to land your next gig, maybe finding just enough time to throw down some fast food or candy, sacrificing his own diet to keep you employed. When he pictures you enjoying the fruits of his labor (along with the vegetables and meats), he can't help but be jealous.

With that in mind, here's an ingenious solution that works for you, your band, AND your agent: Go ahead and help yourself to all the spanakopita, eggrolls, cocktail shrimp and prime rib you want, but be sure to put some aside for him. Wrap it up in a napkin and store it in your refrigerator.

The next time you see him, hand it over with a smile and proudly say, "Here's your fifteen percent!" I guarantee he'll thank you for it, though of course he'll probably want more.

Dear Mr. P.C.:

Ever been talking to a musician when the phone rings, he jumps for it, and all of the sudden you don't exist? I know, I know, it could be a gig. It could be the call for THE gig. Still, it's a little irritating. Just the other night we were, you know, like intimate, you know, when the phone rings. Couldn't believe it—for a $75 gig AND he had to wear a tux! Call Waiting For My Turn

Dear Call:

Let's start with a little more compassion, may we? Forced to wear the badge of shame—a tux—your boyfriend is cast with the waiters and butlers of the world. Nothing says "servant" like a tuxedo, and this is his reward for years of devotion to music.

It gets worse: On a bandstand that emphasizes conformity, even accessorizing is forbidden. Gold cummerbunds, silver bow ties, eye-catching jewelry—all completely off limits. Individuality strictly prohibited.

So where does your downtrodden boyfriend find self-worth? By being "in demand," of course; being such an accomplished player that the jazz world can't live without him. And how does he demonstrate that worth to you? By keeping his phone in the bedroom so you can be dazzled by his importance.

Does the ringing—an antidote to his emasculation at the hands of society—give him enhanced virility? Might this be considered foreplay? Are some of the calls, perhaps, even staged for your benefit? I'm certainly not going to suggest it; that's not my place. But I do think that a little understanding on your part could go a long way.

Have a question for Mr. P.C.? Ask him.

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