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

The Sound of a Puckered Butt, Nice Guys Finish Last, and The Masked Pianist

The Sound of a Puckered Butt, Nice Guys Finish Last, and The Masked Pianist
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The Sound of a Puckered Butt

Dear Mr. P.C.:

We closed our set last night with "Upper Manhattan Medical Group."  As I was packing up, the guy at the front table said he was in fact a doc in an Upper Manhattan Medical Group and that my sax playing "resounded like a forceful Valsalva maneuver." Not sure what he meant, I googled with the following result, direct from the National Institutes of Health website:

"Valsalva maneuver is the performance of forced expiration against a closed glottis. Many activities of our daily lives, such as straining during defecation or playing the saxophone entail the performance of the Valsalva maneuver.

"The Valsalva maneuver has been used in multiple clinical domains ranging from the evaluation of autonomic dysfunction to the treatment of arrhythmias and a marker for heart failure."

So my question:  WTF?

—Stopped by Glottal Stop


Dear Stopped:

This is fantastic! Although some saxophonists might resent the NIH equating sax playing with "straining during defecation," we now know, for the first time, that both can improve heart health. This, in turn, explains "altissimo," an unpleasant squeaky sound favored by only the most health-conscious players. It's the product of simultaneously tightening their embouchures and straining to defecate, and sounds just like that!

Extra health rewards go to those straining hard enough to turn purple; that's a common sight among practitioners of altissimo, henceforth known as "the sound of a puckered butt."

Nice Guys Finish Last

Dear Mr. P.C.:

Big picture question for you. What's more important: how well a musician plays, or how nice a person they are?

—Quizzical in Quebec


Dear Quizzical:

You make it sound as if being nice compromises a jazz musician's playing—and you're absolutely right. Like it or not, the best musicians just don't have time to concern themselves with interpersonal niceties. They may be gruff, ignore or even offend you, but you know why? So they can make your life better with their music!

The less they concern themselves with your feelings, the more time they have to practice altered dominant licks. And you should know by now—as they do—that there's nothing more uplifting to a listener than the sound of advanced harmonic theory.

The Masked Pianist

Dear Mr. P.C.:

I'm a pianist, so for me masks are usually optional on stage. I don't really like wearing one, but people tell me I look better with it on. Should I care more about my looks or about my comfort?

—Medical Accessory Stumps Keyboardist


Dear MASK:

Don't you play better knowing you're looking your best? Put the music first, and don't even consider showing your flawed face!

And there's no reason to stop with the mask. You can take your looks and playing to the next level with face paint, mummy tape, camouflage or even vantablack—whatever you can do to hide as much of yourself as possible. You'll look better, you'll sound better, and for once the audience will actually notice the difference!

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

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