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Old Folks, Countdown

Old Folks, Countdown
Mr. P.C. By

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Old Folks

Dear Mr. P.C.:

When people in the audience are talking, it goes without saying they're not listening to the band. But for the rest of the audience, how do you know when they're actually listening as opposed to just thinking about something else altogether?

—Unheard in Utah


Dear Unheard:

Any jazz musician used to scanning the audience will tell you that there's an identifiable "active listening" posture: Eyes closed, face gently smiling, head bent down and nodding slightly, as if in agreement with the music.

The ability to listen this way grows with maturity—just look at retirement home audiences. Not only do they assume the posture throughout the concert; often they're so deeply moved that they maintain it long after the band has headed home.

Dear Mr. P.C.:

Ok the senior home gig I had planned on playing with my bassist. But it looks like he won't be able to make it. This gig is for a dinner party. They have a piano that plays its self. I wonder should consider backing tracks to play along with some of the tunes? They don't have baby grand. I probably end up bringing my keyboard; more work than I wanted. Please advice!

—Charles, Portland


Dear Charles:

Ok if piano plays its self why were you hired? Probably they are just needing power button operation. First on, then off, would be my advise. If it's already on? Then leave on until you need break, then turn off. Then maybe to eat some of their dinner? Then turn on again! Then hope they don't find someone has better power button technique. Maybe buy self-playing piano for practice button technique at home. Then no more need for practicing notes! Or practice technique at other electronics, like light switch or television too.

Countdown

Dear Mr. P.C.:

I have a problem with this certain drummer. When we're in 4/4, sometimes I might try playing patterns of seven against it. Then he'll start playing in three against the four and against my seven, which could be fine under certain circumstances. I figure, okay, every 84 beats the threes, fours and sevens are going to line up again, which would be in 21 measures. Or actually, since we're playing the threes and sevens in eighth notes, it would be every ten and a half measures. But when I get to the third beat of the eleventh measure, he's beaten me there, so suddenly his high hat is on one and three, and I know things are messed up.

It's because he rushes when he plays against the time. He also plays so loud that it's hard for me not to rush with him, but I have to fight that because I'm already in a pretty complicated thing against the time. The bassist and pianist just play non-committal floaty stuff, like they're spectators and don't want to commit to either side in the fight (I'm a saxophonist, I should mention).

So what should I do? Should I rush with the drummer, and hope I can still keep track of the passing beats? Or should I hold fast to my sevens, and figure that the bassist and pianist will eventually join me and overrule him?

Odd Meter Man


Dear OMM:

Lost behind your web of numbers is the real story: how totally passive-aggressive your pianist and bassist are. They "just play non-committal floaty stuff," while watching you and the drummer slug it out. A day's good entertainment for them!

But at the same time, you and the drummer don't seem to mind that a bit. When you fight over numbers and subdivisions, you like having people watch—a rare but extensively documented form of algebraic bandstand exhibitionism.

If you think about it, there's something in this unlikely quartet chemistry that works for each one of you, OMM, and the group dynamic is quite stable. There may be some musical issues, but as someone with unusual emotional needs, you're lucky to have found a partnership that works.

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

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