Mr. P.C.'s Guide to Jazz Etiquette...

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.

Sucking While Blowing, Door Gig Blues

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Sucking While Blowing Dear Mr. P.C.: Semantic inquiry: When someone has a ton of chops and still utterly sucks to play with, would his or her chops/suck ratio be convergent or divergent? --Getting Older And Testier, Gaming Out Tactics To Enervate Neophytes Dear GOAT GOTTEN: To answer your question, we need to ask another: If this chop-laden person gets even more chops, heading toward infinite chops, will the sucking keep pace, moving ...

Drum and Drummer 2

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Dear Mr. P.C.: If I can tell where a drummer is during his whole solo, does that mean he's good or bad? --Confused Bassist   Dear Confused: Neither: it just means you're listening too closely. There's nothing inherently “wrong" with paying attention to the musicians around you, but it puts undue pressure on them to pay attention to you in return, something they'd probably rather not do. In a sense, ...

Old Folks, Countdown

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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 ...

Provocalists

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Dear Mr. P.C.: I just played a gig with a vocalist who chose to open the set with “Misty." He announced it to the audience by saying “Here's a song that needs no introduction." My question is, how were we supposed to start it? --I Can't Get Started Dear ICGS: Here's the thing: His announcement itself was an introduction, a miraculous bit of self-fulfilling irony. So at that point if “Misty" ...

Going Solo

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Dear Mr. P.C.: I'm a saxophonist, and someone just came up from the audience tonight and started talking to me while I was in the middle of soloing on a hard tune. I was having enough trouble just making the changes--what was I supposed to do? --Blown Blowing   Dear BB: I'm no theory expert, but blues scales usually work. Dear Mr. P.C.: When a horn player at ...

Sitting In It, Low Blow, Always a Bridesmaid

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Sitting In It Dear Mr. P.C.: Is there an “etiquette" as when to accept and when to decline joining a band on stage when invited? --Getting Uneasy Each Sit-in Time Dear GUEST: First, the obvious: If you're better than the band, sitting in makes them look bad but makes you look good. If you're worse than the band, sitting in makes them look good but makes you look bad. That means the ...

On the Download; Presto, the Audience Disappears!; Showboaters Get the Clap

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On the DownloadDear Mr. P.C.: Now that everybody just downloads or streams music and you can't sell many CDs anymore, a lot of my fellow musicians are just giving them away. It's gotten to the point where I'm hesitant to ask if someone wants my disc even for free, because they'd probably rather listen to their favorite “name" artists on Spotify. In the old days, giving someone a CD (instead of selling it to them) was ...

Rushing Collusion, Bits and P.C.s, Ave Maracas

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Dear Mr. P.C.: We all know that as people get older, they slow down. That make me wonder: Do musicians who rush eventually settle into good time? --Good Time Charlie Dear Charlie: Only briefly. A better question is: Exactly when, in their downward spiral, will their time be good? First we need to know how much they rush. We can quantify it by counting their beats played per minute on ...

Best of Mr. P.C. 2017

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Dear Mr. P.C.: This whole “jazz musicians play thousands of chords to three people" vs. “rock musicians play three chords for thousands" thing: What is the correct chord/audience ratio? Perhaps zero chords for an infinite audience is the ideal; or all chords for no audience. I certainly have landed closer to the latter. Is art about this kind of calculus? --Randy H., Atlanta   Dear Randy: Let's break ...

Practice Makes Imperfect, The Pursuit of Nothingness, Challenging the Originalists

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Dear Mr. P.C.: What I don't get is rehearsals. When you rehearse before a gig, you have no idea what will actually go wrong. If people were to rehearse after their gigs, they'd know exactly what to work on. What am I missing? --Practice Isn't Making Perfect Dear PIMP: Here's my question: How do you know that the problems from the concert could be accurately recreated afterwards in a rehearsal environment? ...

Bits and PCs, The Cosmic Loop, Fake Gigs

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Dear Mr. P.C.: Is it ever ok for a horn player to scat? If so, what are the proper syllables for upbeats? --Zee-bop Dear Zee-bop: The correct syllable for an upbeat is “and." Besides alerting the band to where you might be rhythmically, it lets the listeners know there's more to follow, giving them hope it might get better. Dear Mr. P.C.: I've played a few casuals where ...

Booze in the Night, CD or Not CD?, and Malodorous Microphone

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Dear Mr. P.C.: What are you supposed to do with loud drunks? The kind that love to scream at each other when you're in the middle of a tender ballad. --Songus Interruptus Dear Songus: Here's my question for you: Which is a more authentic expression of human emotions in the moment--your practiced licks, or the cries of those anguished patrons drinking away their sorrows? I'm not surprised their emotional outpouring ...