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

The Four-Letter Word, Chatty Clubowner, Knobby Guitarist

The Four-Letter Word, Chatty Clubowner, Knobby Guitarist
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The Four-Letter Word

Dear 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.... jazz (!!!), still fitting perfectly the existing terminology.

I appreciate the search for originality and the desire to be recognized as creative individuals. But what's wrong with being in an actual genre? Aren't we (jazz community) good enough for all those "non-jazz" geniuses?

— a Jazz Cat-Lady


Dear JCL:

Keep in mind that only two percent of Americans actually like jazz. If these musicians you're talking about were to label their jazz "Jazz," they'd lose 98 percent of the audience before they even played a note. By refusing to label their music, they won't lose the 98 percent until they actually start playing.

Chatty Clubowner

Dear Mr. P.C.:

The boss at a club I play in always wants to talk to me after the gig, ad nauseam. I don't know how to escape without pissing him off, but I need my sleep and I also need to keep the gig. What do I do?

—Stuck Talking At Table Seven


Dear STATS:

Steer the conversation to something you actually care about: you! Tell him everything you normally complain about to your spouse: the bad players you work with, the tired repertoire you have to play, and your constant feeling of inadequacy. It might cost you the gig, but it will be great for your marriage.

Knobby Guitarist

Dear Mr P.C.:

When I watch guitar players, especially jazz guitar players, they seem to spend a lot of time fiddling with the knobs on their guitars. They start a solo, tweak the knob, play a few notes, tweak again, all with no discernible change to their sound. Do those knobs actually do anything or is it some kind of crutch to make up for the fact that guitar players can't actually read music?

Please let me know when you answer this question on your excellent website. 

—A. L. Hemiola


Dear AL:

You know the "close door" button on an elevator? You've probably tried pressing it a few times when you were in a hurry, but we all know it makes no difference at all. Like the knobs on a guitar, it serves just one purpose: to offer a sense of control, especially in a situation that otherwise could provoke panic. Riding the elevator, you're panicking because you're expected in a meeting. Guitarists are panicking because they're expected to be musical.

Have a question for Mr. P.C.? Ask him.

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