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.

October 2015

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Dear Mr. P.C.: I used to get all the calls in town when someone needed a bassist. Now I don't get any, and the weird thing is that I've only been getting better. I still practice all the time and can tell I'm improving. So why would I suddenly disappear? I'm not in the clubs anymore, and apparently I'm not in anyone's book either. --Invisible Man Dear Invisible: When the phone isn't ...

September 2015

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Dear Mr. P.C.: Should it matter whether a jazz musician is or isn't pretty or handsome? --Can't Understand The Etiquette Dear CUTE: No it shouldn't, but unfortunately it does anyway. Jazz has historically been music of the down-trodden, disenfranchised and disfigured, and that's led to tremendous prejudice against good-looking players. What can we do? A full-fledged affirmative action plan would be hard to implement, but a sensible informal policy would ask each ...

August 2015

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Dear Mr. P.C.: What's wrong with the people who made up the names for how to play? When you get to a section that's double-time, you would think it would take twice as long, but it's actually faster. Then you get to a part that's half-time, so it should take half as long to play, but it's slower. Am I missing something? --Concerned Citizen Dear Concerned: Yes, you are. Your math assumes ...

July 2015

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Dear Mr. P.C.: Frank Zappa said Jazz wasn't dead, it just smelled bad. If players bathed more frequently would Jazz be more popular?  Thanks. --Jacques Dear Jacques: Check your thesaurus! If something smells bad it is “funky"; Zappa's quote can be paraphrased as “Jazz isn't dead, it's just funky." Funk, in his eyes, is the opposite of death; the funkier the jazz, the more full of life. Reflect on that ...

June 2015

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Dear Mr. P.C.: Is there a correlation between the better a person can play an accordion and the lower the economic scale he is in? Do skinny people ever play the tuba? I'll hang up and listen. --Kenneth Heard Dear Kenneth: I haven't heard the term “economic scale" before, but I assume it's some kind of scale with very few notes. The law of supply and demand tells us that each of ...

May 2015

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Dear Mr. P.C.: I bought a trombone they said had seven positions, but I can find only one long one. Was I ripped off?  --Jazzprof  Dear Jazzprof: You weren't exactly ripped off, but perhaps misled. There are indeed seven positions, but they are positions between you and the trombone, not built into the trombone itself. This is intricately described in The Joy of Sax, and the positions are pretty universal ...

April 2015

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Dear Mr. P.C.: I just played a long solo gig at a fancy mansion. The hosts offered me appetizers, but since I was playing it was hard to eat without getting food on my hands and the piano. I just wound up eating three tiny morsels. Then dinner time came, but it was only for the guests seated at the table. As I played, I heard the chef describe each amazing course before he served it. It was ...

March 2015

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Dear Mr. P.C.: What is meant by the term “Post-Bop"? Since “bop" ended in the 1950s, isn't everything since then technically “post-bop"? --T.M. in Seattle Dear T.M.: It sure is, and that's great news to anyone worried that jazz is becoming irrelevant. What better solution than to be massively inclusive, the biggest of all big tents! Taylor Swift? Post-bop! Rice a Roni? Post-bop! Richard Nixon? Post-bop! Post-modernism? Post-bop!

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