Careers in Jazz
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Jazz Classes, in Detail

Gig Whores

Gig Whores are the largest class within the jazz community, and are the easiest to find.  They ply their wares in hotel lobbies, restaurants, private parties of all types, and anywhere else that jazz is degraded to an artless commodity and sold to the highest bidder.  This is done knowingly and willfully, but not without self-awareness and—at times—regret.  While a Gig Whore may claim to be working “in the trenches,” the jazz musician within knows that he’s really plumbing untreated musical sewage.

Even outside the jazz arena, jazz Gig Whores, working undercover, populate the music world’s ample underbelly: the pianist wearily accompanying a tone-deaf vocalist in a community musical theater production, the bugler announcing post parade at a horse racing track (slyly inserting a Charlie Parker lick disguised as a flourish), the off-camera bassist backing American Idol contestants, the herald trumpeters—dressed in renaissance costumes—serenading department store shoppers at Christmas time, the wedding band leader cajoling guests into a conga line for “Hot, Hot, Hot” (and the six accomplices to his musical crime, barely hiding their disgust and self-loathing), the drummer making “punch-line” sounds for a would-be comedian.  Each banking part of his pay to subsidize the day when he might dare to take the jazz plunge, holding his nose with one hand as the other gratefully palms the ample paycheck.

Yet there is room for heroism in the Gig Whore’s world.  That same pianist might acrobatically shift keys and drop beats in tandem with the vocalist, magically masking her every misstep.  The bassist might find mistakes in the vapid Idol charts and fix them on the fly with improvisational prowess.  The wedding band members might “fake” the bride’s favorite song, a last-minute obscure request they all just happen to know by ear.  More often than not, jazz Gig Whores make up in talent what they lack in pride, taste or integrity.

While money motivates the Gig Whore’s musical lifestyle, fear motivates his more immediate actions.  Gig Whores have an intense phobia of open spaces— on their calendars—which can elicit sudden adrenaline-fueled outbreaks of cold-calls to contractors, restaurateurs and wedding planners.  Between calls, they sit by their phones with the desperation of dateless adolescents.  They’re also terrified of their booking agents, clients and contracts, and compensate by overworking -- shortening their breaks and prolonging their sets.  You’ll often find a Gig Whore (and his unfortunate band) playing in an empty room long after the clients and guests have left, a lone custodian angrily mopping the floor, his iPod unable to fully drown out the tired music emanating from the bandstand.

Identifying Signs
  • Tuxedo (including red holiday bow tie/cummerbund accessory)
  • Bad toupee or comb-over
  • Tie emblazoned with stylized jazz instrument
  • Overzealous handshake
Survival Techniques
  • Advertising in Bridal Magazines
  • Moving abroad for hotel gigs in exotic countries, only to play the worst in American pop music for drunk American businessmen
  • Alcoholism

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