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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.

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 ...

Solving the Audience Equation, The Fix is On, and It's a Setup!

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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 it ...

Best of Mr. P.C. 2016

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Dear Mr. P.C.: I'm just an audience member, but I have a question on behalf of a lot of us listeners: If I make a request and the band plays it, do I have to listen to the whole thing? After they play the melody and then go into all the other stuff, sometimes I'd rather talk to my friends or just leave. --Short Attention Span Suzie Dear SASS: Don't ...