Once upon a time, there was a jazz piano player.
One day, this pianist was asked to provide jazz music as background music at a fundraiser. The idea was that the guests could enjoy nice jazz music while they sipped their wine, mingled with one another, and contributed funds to a worthwhile charity.The event would be four hours long.
So the pianist called a bass player he knew and a saxophonist he had recently met, and they agreed to perform as a trio at the event. All were good jazz musicians.
The event began well. The pianist called a tune they all knew and they immediately formed a musical rapport. The first song was a success.
Something unusual soon began happening, however. When the pianist, who was the leader of the gig, suggested the next tune, the saxophonist made a sour face and said,”No, I don’t like that tune, let’s play such-and-such.” The pianist was surprised, since he had suggested a common jazz standard. But since he didn’t want any “bad vibes,” he went along with it.
The music sounded good, but the saxophonist kept objecting to the leader’s song ideas. When the pianist suggested they play “Over The Rainbow,” the sax player said, “Nah…that’s not a hip tune. Let’s play something by Monk.” This went on and on, all evening.
Finally, the pianist couldn’t take it any longer. Near the end of the gig, he called for the blues tune “Now’s The Time,” by Charlie Parker. When the saxophonist objected, the pianist explained, “Well, I’ve noticed that the group of people over there have been patting their feet to the music, and I think they may enjoy hearing a riff-like blues.”
Hearing this, the saxophonist opened his eyes wide in an expression of surprise, and exclaimed, “WOW – NOW I GET IT. YOU’RE PLAYING TO THE ROOM!”
It had never occurred to him to play tunes that the audience would recognize and enjoy.
Needless to say, the pianist never hired him again.
(Is it any wonder that much of the musical public can’t relate to jazz? Jazz musicians like this saxophonist treat the audience as if they’re invisible. So it’s inevitable that the audience goes elsewhere.)
However, this gives those jazz musicians who do care about their audience a big advantage. Jazz music is wonderful, and audiences will respond to a performer who cares about them, on any level.
(By the way – this story is true and the piano player was me!)
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