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December 1989 - Nightflying Column - The Crowd

Hello again. After last month's review of the Darrin Lawrence Quartet at Pizza D'Action, I have to tell you that I called Darrin Lawrence to talk about other matters and after I identified myself, he said "Yeah, is this Siskel or is this Ebert?" Guess you had to be there.
* * *

I was sitting at a neighborhood bar, having a drink, when the musician friend of mine walked in and sat down heavily next to me and sighed.

"I wonder why people don't shut up when music is being played."

I grunted assent.

"I mean, I oughta set up a cardboard cutout of myself smiling in a tux, with a hidden tape recorder," he said. Then I could just practice at home and come in and pick up my check at the end of the week."

I grunted again. "Perhaps the patrons of this bar are so highly sensitive to good music, that when we mere mortals play, the coarse vibrations hurt their ears."

"Yeah, right. I mean, are we just providing a din so that men and women can ally with each other against the noise? When I was playing in Japan..."

"You were in Japan?"

"Yes, don't interrupt...I played a gig with a local rhythm section. It was thirty minutes on, thirty off, and while we played, nobody talked. Everybody listened."

"Well, don't you think that's just Japanese politeness, at least partially? You're an American and they are aware that they owe a lot to Western culture. Whereas the people who come here don't think they owe anybody but the Mercedes dealership."

"Yeah, when I play here, sometimes I can't even hear myself playing. Banging on it."

"Somebody told me that Bill Evans, the jazz pianist, sometimes would get a noisy crowd to play for, but he would just get more and more intense and quieter and quieter until you could hear a pin drop, as they say."

"I tried that here. No change."

"None?"

"None."

"These folks network in their sleep, I swear. Oh well. Maybe music is just something to jog to...," I said, trying to smile.

"Is music to listen to not relevant? Does it have to make you feel productive? I think maybe there's just too much music. It's not precious anymore. CD's, TV, tapes. Families used to gather in the evening to make music, but now..."

Just then a third musician walked up to say hi. We greeted him. He said,

"How'd you like my new arrangement of Summertime?"

"Sorry, didn't even know you were playing."

"Yeah, I've been since eight."

"Oh."

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