[Dixielandjazz] Audience etiquette

Arnold Day arnieday at optonline.net
Sun Dec 19 14:58:33 PST 2004

That all makes perfect sense to me, Charles. I would add that those who go to restaurants to talk loudly, laugh, sing "Happy Birthday" etc, should choose a restaurant that doesn't feature jazz that evening. I have been to Shanghai Jazz in NJ many times when the likes of Kenny Davern, Mark Shane, John Bunch and even Marian McPartland (earlier this year) were drowned out by noisy diners.
  ----- Original Message ----- 
  From: Charles Suhor 
  To: dixieland list 
  Sent: Sunday, December 19, 2004 2:39 PM
  Subject: [Dixielandjazz] Audience etiquette

  Hey, DJMLers--

  The audience etiquette piece below came from a jazz fan. It’s related 
  to our strand on talking to the audience, but it goes farther in 
  proscribing proper ways that audiences should react, specifically, at 
  jazz performances.

  What’s interesting to me is that most of 10 “rules” apply generally, 
  but three (12,3,4) apply especially to virtually modern jazz in clubs 
  and concert settings. By the 1950s modern jazz had generated a culture 
  of deep listening, with feedback limited to certain kinds of 
  behavior—e.g., applause after solos. Miles of course was known to take 
  this to the extreme of ignoring the audience.

  But traditional jazz and Dixieland bands have historically been part of 
  social settings like dances, bars, picnics, and street events where 
  items like 1, 3, and 4 didn’t apply. At most dances I’ve played over 
  the years with jazz-based combos, audience chatter was a given. A quiet 
  room meant that nobody was there, or they weren’t digging the band. The 
  party mood enhanced the evening for everyone, especially the musicians.

  Yet many OKOM concerts today are treated as solemnly as classical or 
  modern jazz events.  I’m thinking that this isn’t necessarily bad,  I 
  ‘ve enjoyed both noisy and quiet settings as a player and a listener. 
  Probably it all depends on the context. As an individual you can listen 
  deeply to good jazz of any style in any environment, even if the crowd 
  is noisy. But some in some settings it's okay to laugh and talk, while 
  others are intended as capital-C Concerts, and it would be unwise to 
  start a second line or shout, “Hey, where’s the can?” –Charlie Suhor

  Here’s the piece on Jazz Audience Etiquette--

  After attending several local jazz shows, I’ve noticed a disturbing 
  trend at several of the venues – the audience doesn’t know how to 
  participate. The beauty and magic of a jazz concert, whether it be a 
  formal event or a bar gig, is the delicate balance of interplay between 
  the audience and the musicians. Like a call-and-response march, the 
  music being played needs, even demands, feedback from the audience. 
  There is no other artistic genre on the planet that forces musicians to 
  continually generate new ideas and invites the audience to participate 
  with acceptance. I’ve become increasingly aware that the etiquette and 
  rapport needed from the audience has been severely lacking. I attribute 
  this behavior not to rudeness or disrespect, but to a conditioning of 
  countless shows at late night bar bands and big arena rock concerts. 
  Not to worry, I’ve compiled a list of do’s and don’ts when watching a 
  jazz band.

  1. Do not talk to the musicians while they are performing. Unlike a 
  rock song, jazz music consists of a multitude of elements including 
  complex chord changes, form, tempo, and feel. On top of all of those 
  things, a musician is continually called upon to create new and unique 
  ideas and motives based on the particular parameters of the music. 
  Let’s save the introductions and greetings for the break.

  2. Do not beat on an instrument as you are walking by. This one is for 
  percussionists. As appealing as it may be, please refrain from tapping, 
  beating, or otherwise pounding on the drums, cymbals or congas as you 
  walk by. You may be friends with the band. Good for you. So are most of 
  the people in the room. It is not cool to your friends, it doesn’t 
  attract girls, and it does not endear you to the audience. Your friends 
  will still like you regardless of whether you hit the drums or not.

  3. Do not stand directly in front of the band. Yes, I’m talking to you 
  with the baseball cap, prepubescent beard, and can of PBR. Move out of 
  the way. This is not a Phish concert on a high-rise stage. If you need 
  to stand in front of the band, may I suggest Soul Kitchen, Monsoons, or 
  the frat house.

  4. Be aware of your level of conversation while the band is playing. 
  This one is venue specific. In some venues, light conversation is 
  perfectly normal. If you are in a restaurant with a jazz band playing 
  atmosphere music, I certainly don’t expect you to keep your trap shut 
  the entire night. On the other hand, if the restaurant is showcasing an 
  artist or group – talk at your own peril. You might be ostracized by 
  the crowd, or, in some cases, accosted by the musicians.

  5. Clapping is allowed and encouraged. Everyone knows they can clap at 
  the end of a song. Throughout a jazz tune, the players will take 
  individual turns improvising over the chord changes. It is perfectly 
  acceptable to give kudos by clapping after a solo.

  6. It is okay to sit with people you don’t know. This is a corollary to 
  Item 3. Since you can’t occupy the space in front of the band, it 
  should quickly become apparent that seats will become limited. With the 
  exception of a few past girlfriends, people aren’t going to bite you. 
  In fact, you might actually meet someone interesting.

  7. Learn something about jazz. In this case, ignorance is not bliss. 
  Compared to pop music, which is produced for the masses that don’t 
  really enjoy music, jazz is extremely complex. Learning a little bit 
  about form and improvisation will only improve your listening 
  experience. For those of you interested in risqué narratives, there are 
  enough stories of jazz artists concerning sex, drugs, drinking, and 
  death to make Johnny Cash (God rest his soul) blush.

  8. It is okay to ask someone what song is playing. I consider myself 
  well versed in jazz and I know several dilettantes, connoisseurs, and 
  aficionados who have a very strong knowledge of jazz music. Yet, I 
  continually encounter a tune that I don’t know or I can’t recall the 
  title. You will not be perceived as ignorant - it is okay to ask about 
  a tune. Who knows, you may segue into a story about drugs and murder 
  (Item #7). Of course, this is all in the context of the venue (Item 

  9. Talk to the musicians and tell them what you liked. Positive 
  re-enforcement is always good.

  10. Support the local music scene. You can’t complain about there not 
  being anything to do if you don’t support the current acts. Come to 
  shows. Who knows, you might actually meet some new people or hear a 
  tune you’ve never heard before. That is, as long as you don’t beat on 
  the drums as you are walking by.

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