…to all seventeen of my loyal readers
It’s that time of year again… Time flies. It irritates me as much as the next person when the supermarkets start stocking mulled wine in September, but actually I started planning the gig roster for these crucial couple of reindeer-bothering weeks way back in October. Currently booking February…
For many reasons. If you want good people, you have to bag them early. Venues want details in advance so they can blast them out in glossy promos (or digitally glossy ones). Also, no matter how hip you are, these gigs do have to have some kind of seasonal tilt to them and that involves a bit of forethought. In some cases even writing out some charts or – gasp – even a bit of rehearsal! (Not for jazz musicians of course. We’re far too cool for rehearsal – in fact, we’re cooler than Frosty the Snowman.)
Like most musicians, I have a stock of anecdotes about the daftitude of the business, and daftitude often comes out in spades with santa hats on around this time of year…
TALES FROM THE CHRISTMAS CHRYPT
On a Christmas Eve gig a punter once came up to the band and asked whether we could do some Bomb The Bass (the under 40s might need to Google that). He might have been pissed up, but I genuinely don’t think he was being facetious. But the band in question comprised a soignee female singer, me and a piano. My ever game collaborator and I managed to cook up a bit of funky stop-time during the bridge of one of the songs at which point she shouted out “pump up da volume” and “it’s getting kinda hectic” and aforementioned punter cheered wildly and sent us a drink.
TRADE SECRET (CLASSIFIED, YOUR EYES ONLY):
That’s a good way of handling requests, by the way. Use your ear, chuck a little reference into another tune and the requester will hear it, like it and later swear that you’d played the whole thing. They’re not really listening… It’s rather like the way a magician will say “shuffle the deck again” so you’ll believe you actually shuffled it to start with…
THIS PARAGRAPH WILL SELF-DESTRUCT IN FIVE SECONDS…
I always try to accommodate requests, but frankly when a punter accuses a string quartet of not being proper musicians because they turn down a request for Gangnam Style, every diplomatic fibre in my being gets stretched to snapping point.
I was also once at a New Year gig (as a civilian) where, with hand on heart, I swear that the guitarist didn’t know the chords to Auld Lang Syne. Helped him out with the aid of a scrap of till roll. Perhaps this isn’t such an issue in the days of iRealBooks, but please don’t let that be you.
Finally, I recall with some wry fondness the situation leading up to the millennium. All year, musicians were bragging to one another about how much they’d been bid for NYE gigs. There was talk of holding out for four (even five) figures a man. When it came down to it, most venues said sod the lot of you, and hired DJs. Don’t let that be you either – unless you’re a DJ, in which case good luck to you.
Of course, if you genuinely don’t want anything to do with the seasonal razzmatazz, that’s okay. But if you’re going to plan or take gigs at this time of year, remember the audience will not be militant druids. Usually. Christmas gigs are pretty easy to get right, NYE ones much trickier. Mostly, Mustang Sally Bands are the safest option for bookers.
In a similar spirit to last year’s butchery of Clem Moore, here we go:
While jazzers honked their horns by night
and made a modern sound,
The audience said: “well, bugger this,”
and didn’t hang around.
The drummer belted out some crap
and said: “Why should we mind?”
The manager came up and hissed:
“My punters up don’t wind.”
For you, we’ll play on David’s day
some music quite divine,
And that means something seasonal,
Not Nails of Inches Nine.
A very merry ho, and another ho (and here’s a little ho for later) to you all. (All 17 of you.)
May your solos be swinging and bright, and may all your arrangements be tight.