How to get Jazz Famous

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Adrian Cunningham muses on life in The Big Apple

There’s no denying it, it’s a struggle out there for musicians trying to get noticed on the jazz scene. Getting famous as a jazz musician can be tricky in this modern world of relentless distractions. It’s not like the 1930s where you’d make it in this business if you turned up on time, played well, and didn’t murder anyone. Nowadays you have to have an Instagram following and a bloody YouTube channel just to get a gig. So how do you “make it” by staying true to the jazz tradition, and yet still stand out amongst the crowd?

This is where I come in. I’ve compiled a “how to” guide for your fast track to guaranteed jazz stardom. Follow some of the rules below, and you could be on the cover of the next Syncopated Times. So here we go with the Professor’s how to get famous in jazz:

1. Die
I mean think about it…all the famous jazz guys are dead. You can’t argue with the numbers. There’s nothing like a good ol’ death to kickstart your career.

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But don’t just go and die like some sort of idiot. You need to go out in style. Here are some great jazzy ways to check out:
-Getting shot by a jealous lover
-Getting electrocuted on stage
-Bizarre gardening accident
-A grand piano falling on you
-Car or train accident (more cred if you can include both forms of transport at the same time)
-Choking on your own vomit (hmm…perhaps that one might be a little too rock & roll)
But no matter how you go, make sure you do it young. If you’re 20 and you die—it’s a tragedy. If you’re 60, people will probably say, “Well, they had a good run…”

2. Develop a drug problem
Nothing screams success in show business like jumping in and out of rehab. It will give your fans something to root for. And people can listen to your recordings and analyze the music. “Oh yes, this recording is especially powerful, because I heard he was addicted to Pepto-Bismol at the time. You can really feel his personal struggle deep within the music on this track.”

3. Make a sex tape
This has launched many a career of personas of dubious talents. And all you need is your smartphone, some low lighting, and a willing partner. (Please note: it’s not as effective to make a sex tape by yourself. Trust me—no one’s interested.)

Also, if you’re self-conscious about your body on camera, there’s no shame in using a butt-double (I’m available). And just think: the movie soundtrack can be cuts from your latest album!

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4. Start your own jazz club
When you start your own club, you’ll the busiest cat in town, gigging every night of the week. And your musicianship will instantly get better as soon as you open your club: all the other cats will be constantly telling you how great you sound.

5. Go to prison
This is a tried and true formula for jazz success! The list of ex-cons is long and distinguished in the jazz biz: Anita O’Day, Stan Getz, Sidney Bechet, [insert your name here], Billie Holliday, Gene Krupa, Joe Pass, and many, many more!

Once you get released back into society, record a CD and watch the sales soar. Or even better: record a CD “on the inside” using the prison computer for extra jazz authenticity.

6. Breast augmentation
That’s right: a good ol’ fashioned boob job. And if you’re going to go for it, why not really go for it and get a set of double Ds. A nice new rack will finally get you that attention you’ve long deserved. (Boob jobs may also be effective for female musicians.)
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So I hope this was some help for you career-orientated cats out there. With a little elbow grease and a little crime, you too can join the distinguished ranks of the jazz greats of the 20th century.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m about to murder my lover in a fit of passion and subsequently serve some time. So don’t forget to buy my new album…coming soon in the next 15 to 20 years.

Reedman extraordinaire Adrian Cunningham is the leader of Professor Cunningham and his Old School Jazz Band, based in New York City. Adrian Cunningham was voted in a 2017 Hot House Jazz Magazine readers’ poll the Best Alto Sax Player in New York. His most recent album is Duologue, issued on the Arbors Jazz label. Visit him on the world wide web: www.adriancunningham.com.


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