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
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 a song that is counted off at mm = 60, or one beat per second. If they had perfect time they would play 60 beats in a minute, so we measure the deviation. For example, a typical rusher would quickly accelerate, and by the time a minute is up would have played 70 beats; their internal time is plus ten bpm.
Then we apply the following principal, derived from multiple studies: Beginning at age 65, a musician's internal time decreases one bpm per year. This has practical utility: You would want to play with our plus ten bpm rusher during his/her 75th year, ideally on his or her birthday.
Musicians' bpms continue to decrease at the rate of one per year until they hit 85. After that there's a much steeper drop-off, often the result of death. Dear Mr. P.C.:
Where the heck did all of these whispery singers come from? Is that supposed to be sexy?
They're whispering because they have a very personal secret they're afraid to share: They can't sing. Dear Mr. P.C.:
Having played in large jazz groups with many soloists, there is always the jockeying for the next spot, usually dominated by the most assertive players. My question is this: How many measures of pickup notes is acceptable to "claim" the next solo? I have heard at least four bars used to "plant a flag" in an upcoming chorus.
Kind of sad, isn't it? Here we are in America, the birthplace of jazz and the land of plenty, yet when it comes time for soloing, the bandstand is like a Russian bread line.
Cutting in line? Pushing others out of the way? Desperate times call for desperate measures, and that's exactly what those four stolen bars are. Dear Mr. P.C.:
I've hired a pianist for a gig. He was my third choice and he's missing his right index finger. He really needs the work, but my first call player who had accepted another gig because it paid more now lost that gig and wants to play mine. He's willing to do the gig for $100 less than I originally offered. Can I fire the third-choice man?
One Finger Snap
There's a pretty obvious solution: Fire the four-fingered player and donate the $100 you save toward a prosthetic; call it severance pay. Dear Mr. P.C.:
How can I stop comparing myself to other musicians?
Comparisons Are Torturous
It's funny how many musicians have asked me that. Your wordingdirect and conciseis better than most of theirs, but you fail to convey any sort of passion.
Put it all together and you come out a little below average, but I wouldn't worry about it. Dear Mr. P.C.:
Please settle an argument. When a chart says "Latin feel," the pianist starts some kind of calypso/samba/foxtrot rhythm. I think that's wrong. I say that's a "South American/Caribbean" feel. I studied Latin in school. There was no mention anywhere of calypso, samba or foxtrot.
Why don't arrangers know better? Chain-Smoking in Saginaw
There's only one place where Latin is regularly spoken today: Catholic Mass. When a chart says "Latin feel," it's simply telling you to play in a liturgical style. But not in a living, vibrant style like Gospel music; since the Latin phrases uttered by popes, bishops, cardinals and ministers date back many centuries, Latin music should be musty and antiquated.
It's not surprising that Latin music is most popular in Latin America, so named for its high percentage of Catholics. But why would Latin Americans, known for their enthusiastic dancing, do so to a music that barely has a pulse? Apparently the sacred lyrics whip them into a spiritual frenzy, turning these Latin American dancers into the whirling dervishes of Catholicism. Have a question for Mr. P.C.? Ask him.