List of Characters:
Pianists are intellectuals and know-it-alls. They studied
theory, harmony and composition in college. Most are
riddled with self-doubt. They are usually bald. They should
have big hands, but often don't. They were social rejects
as adolescents. They go home after the gig and play with toy
soldiers. Pianists have a special love-hate relationship with
singers. If you talk to the piano player during a break, he
Bassists are not terribly smart. The best bassists come to
terms with their limitations by playing simple lines and
rarely soloing. During the better musical moments, a bassist
will pull his strings hard and grunt like an animal. Bass
players are built big, with paws for hands, and they are
always bent over awkwardly. If you talk to the bassist during
a break, you will not be able to tell whether or not
Drummers are radical. Specific personalities vary, but are
always extreme. A drummer might be the funniest person in
the world, or the most psychotic, or the smelliest. Drummers
are uneasy because of the many jokes about them, most of which
stem from the fact that they aren't really musicians. Pianists
are particularly successful at making drummers feel bad. Most
drummers are highly excitable; when excited, they play louder.
If you decide to talk to the drummer during a break, always be
careful not to sneak up on him.
Saxophonists think they are the most important players on
stage. Consequently, they are temperamental and territorial.
They know all the Coltrane and Bird licks but have their own
sound, a mixture of Coltrane and Bird. They take exceptionally
long solos, which reach a peak half way through and then just
don't stop. They practice quietly but audibly while other
people are trying to play. They are obsessed. Saxophonists
sleep with their instruments, forget to shower, and are
mangy. If you talk to a saxophonist during a break, you will
hear a lot of excuses about his reeds.
Trumpet players are image-conscious and walk with a swagger.
They are often former college linebackers. Trumpet players
are very attractive to women, despite the strange indentation
on their lips. Many of them sing; misguided critics then compare
them to either Louis Armstrong or Chet Baker depending whether
they're black or white.
Arrive at the session early, and you may get to witness the
special trumpet game. The rules are: play as loud and as high
as possible. The winner is the one who plays loudest and highest.
If you talk to a trumpet player during a break, he might confess
that his favorite player is Maynard Ferguson, the merciless God
of loud-high trumpeting.
Jazz guitarists are never very happy. Deep inside they want to
be rock stars, but they're old and overweight. In protest, they
wear their hair long, prowl for groupies, drink a lot, and play
too loud. Guitarists hate piano players because they can hit
ten notes at once, but guitarists make up for it by playing as
fast as they can. The more a guitarist drinks, the higher he
turns his amp. Then the drummer starts to play harder, and the
trumpeter dips into his loud/high arsenal. Suddenly, the
saxophonist's universe crumbles, because he is no longer the most
important player on stage. He packs up his horn, nicks his best
reed in haste, and storms out of the room. The pianist struggles
to suppress a laugh. If you talk to a guitarist during the break
he'll ask intimate questions about your 14-year-old sister.
Vocalists are whimsical creations of the all-powerful jazz gods.
They are placed in sessions to test musicians' capacity for
suffering. They are not of the jazz world, but enter it
surreptitiously. Example: A young woman is playing minor roles
in college musical theater. One day, a misguided campus newspaper
critic describes her singing as "...jazzy."
Viola! A star is born! Quickly she learns "My Funny Valentine,"
"Summertime," and "Route 66." Her training complete, she embarks
on a campaign of musical terrorism. Musicians flee from the
bandstand as she approaches. Those who must remain feel the full
fury of the jazz universe.
The vocalist will try to seduce you _ and the rest of the audience _
by making eye contact, acknowledging your presence, even talking to
you between tunes. DO NOT FALL INTO THIS TRAP! Look away,
make your distaste obvious. Otherwise the musicians will avoid you
during their breaks. Incidentally, if you talk to a vocalist during
a break, she will introduce you to her "manager."
The trombone is known for its pleading, voice-like quality.
"Listen," it seems to say in the male tenor range, "Why won't
anybody hire me for a gig?" Trombonists like to play fast, because
their notes become indistinguishable and thus immune to criticism.
Most trombonists played trumpet in their early years, then decided
they didn't want to walk around with a strange indentation on their
lips. Now they hate trumpet players, who somehow get all the women
despite this disfigurement. Trombonists are usually tall and lean,
with forlorn faces. They don't eat much. They have to be very
friendly, because nobody really needs a trombonist. Talk to a
trombonist during a break and he'll ask you for a gig, try to sell you
insurance, or offer to mow your lawn.