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

Daily articles carefully curated by the All About Jazz staff. Read our popular and future articles.

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.


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

The Four-Letter Word, Chatty Clubowner, Knobby Guitarist

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The Four-Letter WordDear Mr. P.C.: How did it happen not everybody wants to be a cat nowadays? Recently I hear a lot of musicians describing their music as “no particular style," coming from thousands and thousands of their acoustic experiences, absolutely unique, not fitting in any particular genre.... And—most importantly—NOT JAZZ, nothing to do with jazz at all. And yet when it comes to the actual sound, it appears to be strong, beautiful, subjective and sincere.... ...


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

Elusive Spontaneity, Mooed Indigo

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Elusive SpontaneityDear Mr. P.C.: Everybody talks about playing spontaneously like it's the ultimate goal. I guess I'm good with that onstage, but how am I supposed to practice it? —Baffled in Buffalo Dear Baffled: First of all, don't set aside part of your day for practicing; that's the opposite of spontaneous. You need to practice when you're not ready, at a time so inconvenient that it's the last thing on your mind. ...


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

Cursing, Gambling, Drinking and Smoking

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CursingDear Mr. P.C.: Sometimes when a jazz musician is soloing, I hear him groan or even curse when he hits a bad note. But I never hear any squeals of joy from musicians when they play something they like. Why all the negativity? --Pollyanna in Pittsburgh Dear Polly: That groan or curse you hear is actually an important form of messaging within the band. When a player hits a bad note, his ...


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

Best of 2020

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Dear Mr. P.C.: So with the ever-present question of “selling out," my question for you is this: Is it better to alienate your audience by playing complicated original music, or to lift their spirits playing standards you can't stand? --Dave the Dichotomist   Dear Dave: If the only thing that lifts their spirits is seeing you miserable, what kind of people are they? Go ahead and play your original music—they ...


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

Inside Out

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Dear Mr. P.C.: I was playing bass on a trio gig along with a guitarist and drummer. I was comping during a drum solo and I suddenly heard “Quit playing!" from across the room. Now I don't always lay it down for drummers, but this guy did not know the form of any of the tunes we played, so I thought some nice hits and sparse walking in key parts of the tune would help keep things together. ...


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

Talking While Playing, Sub Division, and Translating Scat

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Talking While PlayingDear Mr. P.C.: You are in the middle of an improvised solo, eyes closed, really in the flow, when someone walks up and starts talking to you. What do you do? Sure, I can have a conversation while strumming the chords to a pop song or some repetitive part, but while navigating the changes in real-time to a song like “Dolphin Dance," I just don't have the brainpower to have a conversation simultaneously. Challenges of the ...


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

Bits and Bytes

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Dear Mr. P.C.: Do you really have to suffer to be a great artist, or is that just Hollywood BS? --Pete L., Chicago Dear Pete: It's absolutely true, and that's why you should always seek out and play with the worst musicians possible. Dear Mr. P.C.: Some jazz players record all their gigs and listen studiously to the playbacks. Others can't stand to hear themselves and don't even ...


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