We who are in J.M.A. came because we finally gave up trying to control our habit. We still hated to admit that we could never just listen to or play music safely. Then we heard from other J.M.A. members that we were sick. (We thought so for years!) We found out that many people suffered from the same feelings of guilt and loneliness and hopelessness that we did. We found out that we had these feelings because we had the disease of jazz.
We decided to face up to what it had done to us.
Listen to "Herman's" story below, answer the questions yourself if you dare and remember, there is no disgrace in realizing that you have a problem.
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 your story.
Well, most of the records my parents had in the house were the usual thing-Broadway soundtracks, Mitch Miller, Mickey Katz. But there were others, too.
Well, there was one by Lena Horne and one by Della Reese.
I used to listen to those and-they didn't seem that bad-that dangerous.
Go on. What else?
There was also a-a-a Miles Davis record.
[groans of commiseration].
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 had to listen to it over and over...
Alright Herman, I guess we all know what road you started down. It's time to ask you (and our self-examining readers) some questions. First, have you ever decided to stop playing for a week or so, but only lasted for a couple of days?
Yes. And my family and my neighbors were ecstatic. But then I thought, "maybe if I just use a mute, and play when no one is home."
How'd that work out?
My wife found bottles of valve oil hidden around the house. There was an intervention. Here I am.
Consider yourself lucky. OK, next question: Have you ever switched from one kind of music to another in hopes it would keep you from your jazz enslavement?
Yes. I dug a dusty harmonica out of my desk drawer and tried learning Shaky Horton licks. A week later, I gave it to a friend with a soul patch. Then I tried watering down the music. You know, practiced using the Idiot's Guide to Clifford Brown. Then I decided I'd stick straight to the Arban book and practice nothing but portamenti, apoggiaturas and triple tonguing-all to keep my mind off you-know-what. IT wasn't long before I started sneaking peeks at my Berigan Modern Trumpet Studies.
Predictable. Next question: Have you had an "eye opener" in the last year?
No, I have my alarm clock set to NPR.
The truth, please.
Alright. There are some days-Mondays are the worst. I just can't get out of bed without 95.3
Next question: Do you envy people who can play without getting into trouble?
I used to look down on those people. The ones who took a solo and stuck to the melody or just did a little paraphrase. I thought they just didn't have the guts to chase the dream. Now I know better.
Amen. Do you ever have blackouts?
I'm afraid so. 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 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. we can imagine the rest- Increasing isolation from family and friends; radical mood shifts; explosive responses to muzak; paying nightclubs to play; long nights spent arguing with fellow addicts about Lee Morgan versus Freddie Hubbard. The whole sordid downward spiral.
I realize now how far I fell.
Well, you've made the most important step: realizing you have a problem. And you've come to the only community that can help.
[sympathetic snapping of fingers]
What happens now?
You'll need a sponsor-someone you can call in case it looks like the urge will overwhelm 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 to break down your conditioning.
FInally, we ask you to wear this electronic collar. It's been programmed to deliver a small electronic shock every time it detects a II-V lick being played.
Seems a bit draconian.
My friend, when it comes to the cycle of jazz addiction, we've learned the hard way: Let one riff in and the entire house crumbles. And whatever you do, don't listen to 12 Steps to Heaven.