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October 2011

October 2011
Mr. P.C. By

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Dear Mr. P.C.:

On my steady gig, I'll be trying really hard to play well. You know, being in the moment, trying to come up with ideas I've never played before, treating jazz with total respect. Right in the middle of all that I'll hear the drums start to sound like something is wrong. When I look over, the drummer is making kissy faces at some cute woman in the audience and showing off for her with all these fancy but totally inappropriate fills. It totally destroys my concentration. What should I do? Drummer Ruins My Sanity

Dear DRMS: I understand why you're so upset. Instead of singling out and objectifying a "cute" woman, he could perform a real service by flattering a less attractive woman, particularly a geriatric or grossly misshapen one. Or he could deliver an even bigger blow to chauvinism by "making kissy faces" at the men in the audience, especially the more macho guys—the ones pounding beers and looking hatefully toward the bandstand. But think about it, DRMS: At least he's accompanying you, taking part in your journey. During his solos, you don't even play! Instead, you disengage from the music, silently counting "one, two, three, four, one, two, three, four..." while worrying about what you'll eat during the next break. I can only imagine what you'd be doing if you had his arsenal of gadgets at your disposal: Swiveling around on the drum throne (Look how tall I am! Now look how short I am!), twirling the sticks (Take cover—I'm a nunchuck Master!), and wearing the ride cymbal on your head (Quick, someone find me a rice paddy—it's a coolie hat!). Your drummer may have his faults, DRMS, but you have to give him credit for engaging the audience. And I've got some great news: You can take his approach to a whole new level, combining audience outreach with social activism! Best of all, you can do it during his solos, when you're normally nothing but dead weight on the bandstand! Here's how: When he starts to solo, turn to the people in the audience and leer at them suggestively. But—this is the key—leer only at those who are least accustomed to it, and would therefore most welcome it: The disadvantaged, the disenfranchised, and the disfigured.

Dear Mr. P.C.:

Why do saxophonists always play so many notes? Suffocating in St. Louis

Dear Suffocating: Think of a racecar furiously trying to separate itself from the pursuing pack, its engine emitting a fearsome roar. Or a B movie, where the damsel in distress runs from a terrifying beast, frantically screaming. So it is with a saxophonist, who lets loose torrents of ear-piercing notes as he desperately tries to shake free. Only, in a cruel and heart-wrenching twist, the monstrosity he's trying to escape is his own wretched sound.

From: Mary
To: pcjazz1@gmail.com
Ask Mr. P.C.: Jazz song on a TV ad

I am trying to track down a song that I heard on a TV commercial a few years back. It's not 'Giant Steps' by John Coltrane, but it has that same cool urban sax sound to it with a fast tempo. I can't remember the product, but the footage is on city streets—NYC? Yes, it's driving me crazy and I'd really appreciate your help.
Thanks! Mary

Dear Mary: First of all: Congratulations on your self-awareness! The fact that you've turned to an advice columnist rather than a mere jazz expert tells me that, on some level, you know your seemingly simple quest is actually fueled by deeper, darker issues. Issues that only a trained therapist like me can spot. Think about it: There are countless Internet and satellite jazz radio programs that can give you the music you want, 24/7. So why is your jazz listening still shackled to a 60-second commercial from years ago? If I may probe, gently: Does your own life need a "cool urban...fast tempo" soundtrack? Without it, do you feel uncool, uncosmopolitan and ponderous? Are you, like the advertiser, hoping the music will help you appeal to a young, moneyed demographic? Well frankly, Mary, this is where I draw the line! Jazz music has already been hijacked by large corporate interests—your cherished ad is a perfect example—and there's nothing I can do about that. But so long as I have ink in my toner cartridge and pixels on my screen, I'll play no part in subordinating jazz to the crass dating schemes of an aging gold-digger! Whew!!! Forgive my bluntness, but keep in mind that John Coltrane is practically my godfather; after all, he gave me my name. When exploitation sets Trane spinning in his grave, I feel an ancestral rage that's far more "Ascension" than "Giant Steps."

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