Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Have You Ever Wondered?

- Why band leaders always seem to announce the names of the band members in the middle of loud applause? Can it be that they're worried that the band members might receive a better reception than they do? Let's hope not.
- Why every solo by every musician (and singer) is applauded? Granted that musicians deserve response from their listeners, why can't it wait until the end of the piece? At which time, the leader -- after the applause -- can give meaningful recognition to the soloists. The added benefit of that approach would be an opportunity to hear the subtle connections that good musicians make between solo passages -- a repeated riff, a variation on the previous player's concluding phrase. Good stuff, and most of it missed in the rush to clap, cheer, hoot and whistle.
- Why, if we're going to have so much applause, we can't also have some mass audience hissing directed at the fools who can't wait until the last note fades before they establish their presence with a whoop, a holler or an insightful, "Yeah!"
- Why the drum solo always has to wait until the last number? It's become like clockwork -- here comes the Dreaded Drum Solo and the intermission is next. Don't drummers deserve something better than a pro forma appearance as a kind of last minute afterthought?


Gordon Sapsed said...

I think the whole issue of applause creates a dilemma for the 'caring consumer'in the jazz world.
At one extreme we have quiet 'listening' audiences such as we see a great deal here in UK jazz rooms. They almost invariably clap every solo and 'hush' people in the room who talk. That sets a standard and doesn't allow an unapplauded solo. As you say, that demeans the recognition that the applause implies.
If, as sometimes happens, an 'applaud every solo' standard is not established early in the set then it's more meaningful when it does happen. I have noticed that some musicians in that situation acknowledge the applause more genuinely - with a nod in the direction perhaps of the lone 'applaudee'.
In the U.S. I notice applause relates less to the quality of what the musician did but more to 'whether I recognised it' or liked it [perhaps because it contained a quote I recognised). A well rendered version of the theme is also more likely to be applauded in the U.S.- I am never really sure what that applause means.
Another dilemma arises from the 'rarely applauding' crowd. In several instances in L.A. (especially at Vibrato!) applauding a solo causes the room to suddenly hush and everybody to look around - assuming a celebrity has come into the room. On one occasion the man on the barstool next to me at Vibrato got in conversation after I applauded an Alan Broadbent solo. He had no idea of the calibre of the musicians onstage - who would have had a Royal Festival Hall audience of 2000 or more silently enraptured.
An associated dilemma is that the 'quiet, but rarely applaud' crowd usually ignore bass and drum solos.
I don't have the confidence that you have, Don, in the headliner recognising the backing group's contribution. The more egotistical and dependent they are the less likely they are to acknowledge the supporting players.

Scott Whitfield said...

Hi, Don-

Just discovered your blog. I ALWAYS wait until after the initial applause has quieted down to introduce my band members, because I respect all of them so much and want them to receive all the recognition they deserve. I feel very fortunate to be surrounded by friends and colleagues who are also musical giants, many of whom I have admired for my entire professional life.

Thanks, and keep swingin'!

Scott Whitfield