I'm part of the older generation, players in our seventies and eighties. We're hoping to stay involved, but then there's the elephant in the room: The meds we take. In real life they make us feel better and in some cases ward off diseases. But in our musical life some make us rush and others make us slow down.
So the first thing I want to know when I get to a gig with my fellow seniors is: Who took their meds, what were they, and what was the dosage? That will help me understand and adjust to their time. But what is the polite way to find out?
Medication Equals Dragging and Speeding
You've been around long enough to know that uppers, downers, and even psychedelics have been part of jazz musicians' arsenal for decades. It's not so different for gigging seniors on the decline. Opioid painkillers are the geriatric heroin, and prescription stimulants are the geriatric cocaine. LSD's psychedelic effects are replicated by extended bouts of shallow breathing, low blood oxygen levels, and head-first face-plants from the bandstand.
Old musicians on meds are really no different from younger players on drugs. That's why even seniors who don't need meds should take themit's their only hope for staying relevant.
Dear Mr. P.C.:
These twenty-year-olds who have been showing up at sessions lately are not only playing better than I did at 20, but probably playing better than I do now at 62. And since they're hungry, they'll play gigs for less than I normally charge.
I can't see this ending in anything other than my obsolescence. Make me feel better, dear P.C.
One Last Decade
This should make you feel better: At the rate the jazz audience is disappearing, you may be obsolete for your last decade, but young players will be obsolete for most of their lives.
Dear Mr. P.C.:
It's so hard to write original music nowadays. Feels like all the notes have already been written. I recently wrote a piece that felt original, but it turned out I had stolen parts of the melody and chord changes from myself! A piece I'd written more than 20 years ago! Is that okay?
Reborn Randy in Raleigh
Hypothetically, the old you might not have liked it, but that old you is long gone! You can't get permission, but you're safe from any sort of legal action.
If anything, that old you is being honored by the now older you; it's a lot like playing a dead musician's compositions at their memorial.
Dear Mr. P.C.:
I was booked at a concert venue four years ago, but the gig got canceled due to the Covid shutdown. Starting last year the presenter fired up its concert series again but hasn't returned my calls about a make-up date.
I know for a fact that they're booking bands that should be behind me in line. My question is: Don't they owe it to me to book my band again and to prioritize us over bands that hadn't been canceled?
You're four years older today than you were when they booked you. You don't sound or look as good anymore, plus there are four years' worth of newer, better yous on the scene.
On top of that, claiming your place in a "line" is utterly delusional: Jazz is neither that organized nor that one-dimensional. The only lines jazz musicians respect were played by bebop artists, long deceased, even further gone than you.
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Inspired by the cutting edge advice of Abigail Van Buren, the storied bass playing of Paul Chambers, and the need for a Politically Correct doctrine for navigating the minefields of jazz etiquette, I humbly offer my services.