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November 2011

Mr. P.C. By

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Dear Mr. P.C.:

I'm playing tuba with a banjo band. How long should I allow the banjo players to try and tune before I grab their expensive, and tune it for them? Steve

Dear Steve:

Let's turn this around: How would you feel if a banjo player grabbed your tuba and suggested it would be more useful in molten form? I'm assuming, for the sake of comparison, that the banjoist is a metallurgist, to the same extent that you're a pyromaniac.

Your snobbery is strangely common among tubists; could it be a defense mechanism? After all, it must be hard not to feel insecure when every note you play sounds like the fart of a giant, blubbery bottom, each juicy expulsion liberating squalid rivers of effluvia. (Of course I don't mean to belittle fatty bottoms, which are every bit as functional and—in their own overfed way—beautiful as bony ones).

Your elitism only gets worse when you talk about tuning. In tune, out of tune; 440 this, 442 that... Just who gave you the right to decide a note's proper place in the frequency spectrum? It's more than a little ironic, Steve, considering that "pitch" isn't exactly a central component of your own rumbling flatulence.


Subject: Can you be dead and still be great?

A friend asked me what I thought of Buddy Rich. I said he's great. My friend corrected me, saying he "was" great—he's dead. I told him that when you're that good, you're always great in the present tense, even if you're dead. As in "Mozart is great." When a great musician dies is he dead, or still great? "Was" Charlie Parker great, or "is" he great? Is there life after death?

Thanks, John

Dear John:

I'll be honest with you: Sometimes when I find myself putting out the petty etiquette brush fires—he said, she said; he played, she sang; he drank, ruined the gig and made her cry on the bandstand—I feel like a two-bit literary whore. Then, just when I need it most—when the stars are aligned and Mother Earth is in balance— a deep-thinking reader like you comes along and provokes me to new heights of profundity.

I could write volumes on the existential ramifications of your letter, a question that touches on issues as profound as the meaning of life itself. But unfortunately, space is limited, so this will have to suffice: You can't really say that Buddy Rich "is" or "was" great. You can only say that he "was and will always be" a complete, unmitigated asshole.

Ha! Of course I wouldn't ordinarily choose a word as judgmental and derogatory as "asshole" to describe a troubled soul like Mr. Rich, who can't be blamed for the indescribable torment he doubtless suffered in his formative years. But that does seem to be the operative name for him among many musicians these days. I'm actually rather fond of him; he's done more to raise awareness of jazz etiquette concerns than any other "shithead" in the music's long and ill-mannered history.

Thanks, Buddy! Thanks, John!

Dear Mr. P.C.:

Sometimes when I'm in between tunes on the bandstand, or sitting at the bar on break, someone in the audience will come up and ask me if I know a certain tune. That's fine. But when I say no, they insist on singing it to me anyway. And when I shake my head and continue to say no, they won't stop. They're looking me right in the eyes and smiling while they're singing, like we're supposed to be sharing an intimate moment, and I CAN'T GET THEM TO STOP! It makes me really uncomfortable and kind of pisses me off. What's up with this? Singers Invading My Personal Space


Obviously, these aspiring singers have found the moment they've been waiting for: an opportunity to audition!

So why not show some heart and ask for a business card? Or, better yet, pretend you book a hotel lounge and get them to mail you a demo tape and head shot! Amateur vocalists get so few affirmations that you could really boost their spirits, if only you were willing. There's a compassionate angel inside you, SIMPS, struggling to air its wings; won't you let it take flight?

I know what you're wondering: How can Mr. P.C. be so sure they're auditioning? Well, just think about it—what else could it be? Unless they're so in love with their voices—and themselves—that they think they're giving you a special treat. So special that even as you're shaking your head trying to get them to stop, you really need to hear more, though you're sure you've listened to as much as you can stand. "This is for your own good," they might as well be saying. "Bathe in its healing glow."

And that would just be too weird, wouldn't it?

My Name: Ebenezer

Inquiry Details: As an intrepid AAJ CD reviewer, how do I handle the well-meaning but overly ambitious artist promoter who sends out Christmas CDs to be reviewed.... in AUGUST!

It's hard to feel ho, ho, ho seasonal when it's 104 degrees outside.

Dear Ebenezer:


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