[Dixielandjazz] Requests not to play and huge tips!

Elazar Brandt jazzmin at actcom.net.il
Thu Dec 9 16:29:17 PST 2004

Shalom Jazz Fans,

One of my current gigs is a solo job on banjo and vocals at a steak house in
Jerusalem a couple evenings a week. The place draws a lot of black hat and coat
religious folks. In order to promote audience interaction and to suggest the
idea of tipping the band, I prepared a list of songs from which they can make
requests (since most folks today under 50 or so don't readily think of a lot of
the songs that we like to play). At the end of the sheet (2 column, 2 sides,
listing some 150 tunes) I put a box that reads:


If you enjoy the music -- 2 shekels (about 50 cents)
If you don't enjoy the music -- 3 shekels *
	*NOTE: It's cheaper to enjoy!
Requests -- 5 shekels
Requests not to play -- You couldn't afford it

I find the list helps people to pick songs they like and that I know without
playing the guessing game for 10 minutes ("Uh, do you know anything by Led
Zeppelin?"). On occasion, someone hands me the list back with several song
titles checked, and gives me 5 shekels per title requested. And once, a yeshiva
student, on his way out the door, ceremoniously dropped 2 shekels into my tip
jar and said apologetically, "Sorry, but I enjoyed your music."

Another time, a group of about 15 were at one large table, and when they
finished eating, the leader got up, turned to me in the middle of a song, and
very rudely waved his hand indicating that I should stop playing. I, perhaps
foolishly, did stop in mid chorus, which I almost never do, in time to hear him
bark, "Could you stop playing for a few minutes, I want to give a talk?" With
many groups from yeshivas coming to the restaurant, it is not uncommon for
someone to give a talk, or for the group to sing the blessings after the meal
together, and I don't mind to stop for that. But this fellow proceeded to give a
talk on "Courtesy", and it was all I could do to keep from busting out laughing
at the incongruity. I saw no reason why he couldn't have waited the extra minute
or less until I finished the song, and then asked me a bit more politely or
discreetly. They didn't leave any tip, either.

About large tips, so far not in the restaurant, but on the street I occasionally
get them. Once someone put a gold ring with a real ruby into my hat. I took it
to a jewelry store and they valued it at $350. It is not too unusual to get a
tip of 100 shekels (about $25), a lot for someone living on Israel's economy.

On the other end of the scale, I get relatively a lot of people ceremoniously
placing very small amounts into my hat, maybe 1 or 2 of our smallest coins.
Sometimes I can tell that this is someone who doesn't have much, and then the
gesture means a lot. Other times this is obviously not the case, and I wonder if
they're intentionally trying to insult me. But I am in the habit of saying thank
you as much as I can when people put anything in the hat. Once a lady walked by
and casually dropped a pittance in, maybe 10 cents' worth, and I thanked her.
She stopped in her tracks and turned around, saying, "If you can thank me for
that, you deserve more," and she put a couple shekels.

One more quick story. A fairly well known gospel singer, Amy Grant, passed by
one day. She was with someone who knew me, and waited until I finished a song to
be introduced (see "courtesy" story above), and she started to put a couple
dollars into my hat. I tried to tell her she didn't need to do that, and she
said, "Why not? If you ever see me playing on the street, you'd better put
something in MY hat!" Then she sang a song with me, which meant much more than
the tip.

A few of my favorite tip stories.

Elazar "Brother Can You Spare a Shekel" Brandt
Doctor Jazz Band
Jerusalem, Israel
Tel: +972-2-679-2537

Doctor Jazz Band CD available. $15 postpaid. We now can accept credit card
payments via Paypal. See website for ordering info.

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