Sitting In It, Low Blow, Always a Bridesmaid

Sitting In It, Low Blow, Always a Bridesmaid
Mr. P.C. By

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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


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 only way they'd invite you on stage is if they didn't think you're as good as they are.

So at that point should you go ahead and sit in? Etiquette is all about putting others' needs before your own; the polite response is to accept their offer, put your inferior playing on display, and know that every mistake you make elevates them. There's something in it for you too: As you work your way down the food chain, looking for a band that won't invite you to sit in, you'll eventually learn exactly how limited your talent is.

Low Blow

Dear Mr. P.C.,

If a bass solos when a daiquiri's blending, does anyone hear it?

—Concerned Citizen

Dear Concerned:

I'm so tired of all these jokes about people talking during bass solos. Here's the truth: Since the bass plays in a frequency range well below ordinary conversation, it leaves a gaping hole above it that conversation happens to naturally fill. There's nothing funny about that; it's science!

Unfortunately, the sound of daiquiris being blended sits in the same frequency range as human speech. The problem with blending daiquiris during a bass solo isn't that it drowns out the bass, but that it impedes conversation.

Always a Bridesmaid

Dear Mr. P.C.:

You're the etiquette guy, so tell me this: What am I supposed to say when someone calls me to get the phone number of someone else who plays my instrument, for a gig that he could just as well have called me for?

—Chopped Liver

Dear Chopped:

If you think about it, there are a lot of musicians he could have called to get that phone number, yet he chose you above all the others. Why? Because you're important to him! Not important as a musician, obviously, but important as someone who provides an ancillary service.

In a time when jazz artists need to broaden their skill sets, you'd be a fool not to embrace this new niche. If you put your mind to it, there's no reason you can't become the go-to call for musicians who need to find players better than you.


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