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Mr. P.C.'s Guide to Jazz Etiquette and Bandstand Decorum

November 2015

November 2015

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Dear Mr. P.C.:

I played on a recording session not long ago, and took four guitar solos. When they sent me a CD, I discovered that they'd had a trumpet player come in afterwards to play throughout the project—including during my solos! So everywhere I left space in a solo you'd hear the trumpet player adding little filler licks. Then the first review came out and praised the "uncanny interplay between guitar and trumpet!" This raises all kinds of questions. Are they allowed to do that? What am I supposed to do now? Does this mean my solos can't stand on their own? And is that what jazz is coming to today?

—Needing My Space

Dear NMS:

Would you buy a book missing pages? A half-full bottle of wine? The point is, consumers have so many choices nowadays that last thing they want to pay for is the absence of a product.

With that in mind, when people spend their hard-earned money on CDs, are they paying for silence, or sound? I think you know the answer.

Dear Mr. P.C:

I'm a jazz musician new to the online dating scene. I met a girl online and we started corresponding about our interests, etc. She showed an interest in my music and I sprung at the opportunity to describe all the great players I work with and my love for the material I play.

After months of stoking her interest with my enthusiastic banter she finally came to one of my gigs. I had a group of top-shelf jazz players in the area playing awesome arrangements so I was confident the music would be compelling. It didn't turn out that way. After the gig we talked and she delivered the devastating blow:

"To be honest I couldn't stand it, it sounded like guys masturbating with their instruments."

What do you think I should take away from this? 


—Heart's Content

Dear HC:

When she said "it sounded like guys masturbating with their instruments," did she mean their instruments or their instruments? Because it seems to me that there is no way of masturbating that doesn't involve one's instrument, but I have no idea what a bunch of guys doing that would sound like; do you? 

Well somehow your girlfriend does.

Dear Mr. P.C.:

How do you turn down a gig? I mean, if someone calls me for a gig, and I'm open, but I don't want to do it, what am I supposed to say? Maybe I'll want to do a better gig with him some day, or maybe I don't ever want to play with him. Either way, what am I supposed to say?!!!

—Nick Naysayer

Dear Nick:

What you don't want is for him to take it personally—jazz artists, especially leaders, get their feelings hurt easily. So make it clear that the gig is so bad that you would turn it down no matter who was calling you for it:

"I'm really sorry, John, but you know Charlie? Total badass, right? Well, even if it was him calling me for the gig, I'd still say no. Why? Because it's a terrible gig!"

Now he knows it's nothing personal. Then you can follow up by reassuring him that if he called you for a better gig, you might very well take it:

"It's not like I'd never say yes to one of your gigs. If it paid well and you started hiring decent musicians like the guys I play with in Charlie's group, I'd totally consider it!"

Finally, buy yourself a little wiggle room:

"The only thing is, we'd need to have an understanding that if Charlie calls me, I can sub your gig out. Not that I necessarily would, because I have absolutely no problem with you whatsoever!"

Voila! You've turned his gig down and flattered him in the process, so now he's on your side. Best of all, now that he considers you a friend it will be even easier to get out of his gigs.
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