In my Jazz Times review of a Bill Charlap concert, I included this observation:
The complexity and clarity of Charlap’s work and the trio’s unity were compelling, nearly mesmerizing. Their listeners were frequently so engrossed that they abandoned the self-conscious rote clapping after each solo that jazz audiences have come to believe is an obligation. The audience’s concentration on the music was a far greater expression of appreciation than little explosions of applause.
That provoked Bill Kirchner to try an experiment for his own concert at the New School in New York Monday night. He called the concert “Everything I Love.” This was the band:
Bill Kirchner, soprano saxophone
Eddie Monteiro, MIDI-accordion, vocals
Ron Vincent, drums
Jackie Cain, vocals
Nicki Rivers, vocals
This is the paragraph Kirchner added to his program notes:
Most of us as jazz listeners learned early on that it is considered “good manners” to applaud at the end of every solo–good, bad, or indifferent. There are even “jazz for kids” books that tell youngsters that if they don’t clap for every solo, the performers will be offended.
This mindless custom serves no purpose other than to interfere with truly hearing the music, especially the beginnings of each solo. If you want a key to a jazz performer’s intent, listen to how he or she starts a melody or an improvisation.
So for tonight, we’d like to relieve you, the audience, of the burden of rote clapping for solos. At the end of each selection, if we’ve done something that moves you, we of course hope that you’ll respond enthusiastically.
If this new concept of “jazz etiquette” appeals to you and enables you to hear the music better, please tell your friends. Maybe together we can start a movement!
This is Bill’s report on the experiment:
Well, the concert went very well–full and enthusiastic house, and
all the cats played and sang great. Despite my program notes, people
still clapped for every solo, which perhaps indicates that 1) some
folks don’t read programs too carefully and/or 2) the
clapping-for-every-solo habit is so ingrained in so many jazz
listeners that’s it’s automatic.
But if an audience digs the music and responds, I can hardly complain.
If you missed the concert, you’ll find the same group, minus Nicki Rivers, in top form on the new Kirchner CD, also titled Everything I Love. (Patience; it’s a slow downloader.) For my mini review of the album, click here.