[Dixielandjazz] Sit in

Ministry of Jazz jazzmin at actcom.net.il
Sat Oct 21 11:24:37 PDT 2006

Shalom Jazz Fans,

Amen to Jim's comments about sit-ins. I've had a couple of experiences
lately, bad ones, in this regard.

1. We were playing in a restaurant one night and a customer says he sings
and asked if he could sing Hello Dolly with us. We played the intro, the guy
grabbed the mike (we use only one battery operated amp for the vocals) sang
the song, graciously allowed the band to play half a chorus, and then sang
it out, not giving anyone a chance to play anything.

2. We were on the street. (It is not easy to deal with unwanted sit-ins on
the street because technically they have as much right to be there as you
do, and it is only courtesy that would prevent someone from ruining your
show. The police are not going to arrest them for being bad performers!)  A
young kid came by with a guitar, and without asking or being invited, took
up a position front and center, and started playing and singing, not
necessarily what we were playing and singing. Now somewhere in the universe
there is a law of nature that these guys always have obnoxiously loud
voices. We asked him to lay out, and he seemingly graciously agreed, but
then he kept playing and singing. I asked him again, more firmly, and he
said he would stop, but didn't. Then I made him put down the guitar. (He's
lucky I didn't break it over his head!) So he grabs our washboard and stands
in the line-up and starts playing that. We had a crowd and this guy was
trying to hijack our show and our audience. I had to do something I rarely
do, and that is to humiliate him in front of the crowd. I took the washboard
from him, I announced to everyone present that he was not in the band and
was not going to be in the band. He said all he needs is a little practice,
and I said, "No way, Jose. It ain't going to happen." Finally he left and we
were able to continue.

3. What do I do when one of my own less experienced student/players invites
someone inappropriate to perform with us? A couple weeks ago, my banjo
student and partner in forming the band sent me an email informing me that
he has a friend who plays alto sax who will be playing with us at our next
street performance. Now my apologies to you alto players out there, and yes,
I know you can play Dixieland on an alto sax, but we finally have the
instruments we need for a traditional line-up, and some of them are new, and
I prefer to work with them and not confuse them and to try to present a
consistent face of the band to the public. The sax guy doesn't have
experience playing OKOM, and didn't know our songs. I told my partner I'd
rather the guy didn't join us, and he says he already invited him, so it's
too late to uninvite him. And he couldn't understand what my objection was.
Lucky for me, the guy didn't show. I then asserted my divine right as
founder and leader of the band, and noted that if I want to invite someone
to perform with us as a guest, I always run it by my partner before
finalizing the invitation, and I insisted that he do the same with me in the

I always preach to my players that a real musician will never force himself
onto another band as a guest, and if he is asked to sit in, or if he asks
and the band agrees, he doesn't get up and take over the show. As far as I'm
concerned, someone who does this is not a musician, but a noise-maker.

Now I travel a lot, and I always make an effort to find and contact local
players and bands and try to attend their performances. Sometimes they ask
me to sit in. Sometimes I ask if I can--in advance whenever possible, not on
the spot. But I don't think I've ever done it without an invitation, and my
intention is to then listen to the band and fit in with them rather than
take over and become the star of the show. If I ever get to sit in with any
of you and I fail to observe proper courtesy, please, please hit me with

All the best,

Elazar Brandt
Dr. Jazz Dixieland Band
Tekiya Trumpet Ensemble
Jerusalem, Israel

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