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Friday, August 2, 2013

Jazz Musicians Anonymous

The first step is to recognize you have a problem. Yes, you. Now, harken unto Herman's story below and it may not be too late.

Welcome to Jazz Musicians Anonymous. Please introduce yourself.

My name is Herman and I play the trumpet.

Good morning, Herman. Let's hear a little about the music of your childhood.

Well, most of the records my parents had were the usual thing-Broadway soundtracks, Mitch Miller, Mickey Katz. But there were others, too.

Such as?

Well, there was one by Lena Horne and one by Della Reese. 

What we call "gateway" records. 

Listening to them didn't seem that risky.

That's what they all say. What else?

There was also a-a-Miles Davis record.

Which one, Herman? It wasn't Kind of Blue, was it?

No. Live at the Blackhawk-Friday night.

The hard stuff. This is worse than I thought.

There was something about the whole mythology that was so seductive-not just the music, but the cover photo, the erudite liner notes. The whole thing gave me an incredible rush of freedom. I used to lie under the dining room table and listen to it over and over...

Alright Herman. No need to go down that gory road.
Have you ever tried to put down the horn? 

Yes. And my family and my neighbors were ecstatic. But after a few days, I said to myself "maybe if I just use a mute, and play for a few minutes when no one is home..." 

How'd that work out for you? 

My wife found bottles of valve oil hidden all over the house. There was an intervention and here I am.

Not a moment too soon. Next question: Have you ever tried to substitute another instrument and switch to another kind of music in hopes it would free you from your enslavement?

Yes. I dug a dusty harmonica out of my desk drawer and tried learning Shaky Horton licks. It didn't take. A week later, I gave it to a friend with a soul patch. Then, I couldn't stop myself, I picked up the horn again. I tried watering down the music; you know, practiced using the Idiot's Guide to Clifford Brown; tried sticking to the Arban book and practicing nothing but appoggiaturas and triple tonguing-but I still couldn't keep my mind off you-know-what. 

Pitiful. And then?

In three days I started sneaking peeks at my Berigan Modern Trumpet Studies. Then, I started copping Chet Baker solos...

All right, I get the sordid picture. Next question: What radio stations do you listen to?


The truth, please.

Alright! There are some days-Mondays suck, but Tuesday's just as bad-I can't get out of bed without 95.3.

Next question: Do you ping pong between jealousy and disdain when you listen to other trumpet players.

No, no, I can take 'em as they come.


Alright, you sadist. I admit it. My girlfriend won't go with me to concerts, anymore. She says she doesn't know whether it's worse to leave with someone smiling smugly or gnashing his teeth in fury.

I pity her. Do you ever have blackouts?

Unfortunately. There was a bleak period when I came under the sway of screamers like Maynard Ferguson, Cat Anderson and Bill Chase. I blew so hard the air in my lungs became compressed to the density of a medium-sized black hole. The back pressure made the veins in my forehead sprout like kudzu on a dead oak tree. More than once I woke up not even knowing if I'd finished my solo.

Thank you, Herman, for your honesty. We can imagine the rest: Increasing isolation from family and friends; radical mood shifts; explosive responses to muzak; paying nightclubs to play; long nights arguing with fellow addicts about Lee Morgan versus Freddie Hubbard. The whole sordid downward spiral. 

I realize now how far I fell. 
What happens now?

You'll need a sponsor-someone you can call in case it looks like the urge will get the better of you. Stan here will take over that job. Stan plays accordion...

But, Art Van Damme...

...In a polka band.


I want you to take home this little booklet and study it carefully. It contains all the stupid, misogynist things that Miles ever said. It should help break down your conditioning. 

FInally, you have to wear this electronic collar. It's been programmed to deliver an electronic shock every time it detects a II-V lick being played.

Seems a bit draconian.

Or would you rather we let the loan sharks get you for what you owe on mouthpieces?

No! I'll do it.

And remember, we'll be tracking your movements online. Any attempts to download Kenny Dorham transcriptions will be dealt with severely. Now, take this recording of "12 Steps to Heaven" and go in peace.

Cool. I love Horace SIlver's composition...

Forget it, pal. Your case is hopeless. Stan drop the net on him.

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